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Migrant crisis

in Context


Syria Civil War over President Bashar al-Assad

Started off as a war for people for or against Assad,
but has turned into sectarian violence (ISW, 2015)
The people of Syria have suffered beatings, torture,
murder, interrogations, torture, chemical warfare,
snipers, bombs, sexual assault, and chemical warfare
(Citizenship and Immigration Canada, 2015).
Originally a receiver of refugees from Palestine &
Iraq prior to 2011-now a refugee-sending country
(Migration Policy Center, 2013).
More than 4.5 million people have fled Syria since
2016 (UNHCR) and 12 million people need assistance
in Syria (UNHCR, 2014)

Crisis in the middle east

Breakdown of Migrants Arriving

by Sea

Note. Adapted from UNHRC U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for Iraqi and Syrian Refugees,

Note. Adapted from Institute for the Study of War, Control of

Terrain in Syria: December 23, 2015, http://

Refugee Arrivals-Top 10 States

Note. Adapted from UNHRC U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for Iraqi and Syrian Refugees

Regime: Shia Assad
Hezbollah: Shia group
backed by Iran supports
JN: Al Nusra Sunni
Syrian branch of AlQuaeda fighting ISIS
Rebel: Syrian opposition
Loose coalition of groups
dominated by Syrian
Sunni arabs anti-regime &
armed groups.
YPG: Kurdish Militia
Groups fighting ISIS

Age breakdown of Syrian refugee

arrivals in the US
October 2011 to present
55.69%under 20
30.73%age 21 to 40
12.10%age 41 to 64
1.48%over 65
Note. Adapted from UNHRC U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for Iraqi and Syrian Refugees

Gender breakdown of
Syrian refugee arrivals
in the US
October 2011 to present
Note. Adapted from UNHRC U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for Iraqi and Syrian Refugees,

Ethnicity & Religion

87% Arab
10% Kurdish
3% Other

UNHCR says that most of the Syrian refugees currently fleeing their
country are students under 35 (UNHCR, 2015)
In the US, Syrian immigrants have higher educational attainment
than the general foreign-born population (Zong, 2015)
Many have tertiary education, but have no academic papers
(Wittes, 2015)
26% (over age 25) have not completed high school (Zong, 2015)
Children going too long without education in intermediary
countries such as Turkey (Human Rights Watch, 2015).

3% Christian
93% Muslim

Note. Adapted from Nowrasteh, A. Who are the Syrian refugees?

Their religion, age, gender, and more,

Talking Economics
English Language
Motivation to learn English is high (Dorman,
Many Syrian refugee women do not speak
English (Walchko, 2015).


Labor force participation rates very low for Syrian women (41% vs.
56% foreign-born & 59% native-born counterparts) for the USA as
well as around the world (Zong, 2015).
Language development is one of the key factors for integration
into economy and society (Aiyar et al., 2016)
Many of the recent refugees are from the wealthier and educated
part of Syrian society (Sasnal, 2015)

Mental Health
Syrian refugees have specific psychological, social, and somatic
Shame & guilt from torture/sexual violence
headache stomach pains, difficulty breathing from torture
and expression of stress.
Isolation from experience, social stigma
Many suffer from PTSD and depression (UNHCR, 2015a).
79% of children have experienced a death in the family (Sirin
& Rogers-Sirin, 2015)

Cultural Takeaways
More families are likely to be under poverty level overall
than other foreign-born families possibly due to larger
family size and less female family members working
because of traditional gender roles (United Nations,
Syrian women prone to isolation in host communities
(Dorman, 2014)

Aiyar, S., B, Bergljot, Batini, N., Berger, H., Detragiache, E., Dizioli, A., Ebeke, C., Lin, H., Kaltani, L., Sosa, S.,
Spilimbergo, A., Topalova, P. (2016). The refugee surge in Europe: Economic challenges. Retrieved from

US Vetting Process
USA is focusing on children, women, and the elderly (Pope,
Victims of violence & torture
UNHCR serves as a liason. Initial screening & registration.
2 more layers of security through U.S. Citizenship and
Immigration Services & Fraud Detection and National
Security Division
Interview not on US soil
More interviews when they get to the USA including health
checks & more background checks.

Pope, A. (2015, November 17). How We're Welcoming Syrian Refugees While Ensuring Our Safety [Web log comment]. Retrieved from https://
Sasnal, P. (2015). Who are they? Two profiles of Syrian refugees? Retrieved from
Sirin, S. R., & Rogers-Sirin, L. (2015). The educational and mental health needs of Syrian refugee children. Washington, D. C.: Migration Policy Institute
United Nations. (2014). Seeking accountability and demanding change: A report on womens human rights violations before and during the conflict.
Retrieved from

Bubbers, J. (December, 2015). Beyond aid: educating Syria's refugees. British Council. Retrieved from https://

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. (2014). Overview: 2015 Syria response plan and 2015-2016 regional and resilience plan. Retrieved

Citizenship and Immigration Canada. (2015). Population profile: Syrian refugees. Retrieved from https://

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. (2015, December 8). UNHCR says most of Syrians arriving in Greece are students. Retrieved from

Dorman, S. (2015). Educational needs assessment for urban Syrian refugees in Turkey. Retrieved from https://
Migration Policy Institute. (2015). MPI fact sheet: Syrian immigrant population in the United States is a small
one; vast majority comes via family reunification, not humanitarian route [Data file and code book]. Retrieved

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. (2015a). Culture, context and the mental health and psychosocial wellbeing of Syrians: A review for
mental health and psychosocial support staff working with Syrians affected by armed conflict . Retrieved from

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. (2016). Syria regional refugee response [Data file and code book]. Retrieved from http://
Walchko, K. (2015). For Female Syrian Refugees Settling Into New Jersey, a Quiet Struggle. Retrieved from
Wittes, T. C. (2015, March 17). Four years on, Syrias refugees search for a future [Web log comment]. Retrieved from
blogs/markaz/posts/2015/03/17-wittes-syria-refugee-camp-zaatari-jordan (2015). Infographic: The screening process for refugee entry into the United States [Data file and code book]. Retrieved from https://
Zong, J. (2015). Profile of Syrian immigrants in the United States. Washington, D. C.: Migration Policy Institute

Issues to Think About

Access to proper psychological care for Syrian refugees who are mindful about
the cultural stigma attached to mental health.
Female Syrian refugees need some sort of empowerment program to break
down gender roles. Possibly organize community groups where women can
share their experiences.
Instead of solely focusing on immediate employment, develop specific
programs for those refugees who have higher qualifications.
Have community events between Muslim groups in the communities for clearer
communication and understanding. There are too many negative portrayals
painting a wide brush of Islam in a negative light.