Tag Archives: Syria

TAKE ACTION: Protect deserving, carefully vetted Syrian and Iraqi refugees and their families fleeing violence and death

from Justice for Immigrants

jfiBackground: In the aftermath of the violent attacks on Paris, 31 governors made public statements that they wanted resettlement of Syrian refugees halted in their states. Days later, the U.S. House of Representatives, with comparable intentions, passed H.R. 4038, The American Security against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act, which would effectively halt all resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees in the United States for a protracted time.

The week after Thanksgiving, the same bill or similar legislation will likely be introduced and voted on in the U.S. Senate, and even worse legislation may continue to be introduced. Meanwhile, some federal lawmakers may also try to use the Omnibus appropriations bill that must be passed by December 11th as a vehicle for securing passage of the SAFE Act or similar legislation.

On November 17th, Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, Chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, issued a statement which said, in part, “I am disturbed…by calls from both federal and state officials for an end to the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States. These refugees are fleeing terror themselves—violence like we have witnessed in Paris. They are extremely vulnerable families, women, and children who are fleeing for their lives. We cannot and should not blame them for the actions of a terrorist organization.”…

Click here to read this full alert and take action now.

SYRIA: All energy should go to political negotiations for a solution in Syria

from Pax Christi International

Pax Christi International on the Vienna talks

pcilogoNovember 16, 2015 — The war in Syria has almost completed its fifth year. The cost in terms of human life, the environment and infrastructure is immense – more than 250.000 people have been killed and millions have been displaced. The cycle of extreme violence on the whole Syrian population is unacceptable and should come to an end as soon as possible.

A new round of international talks aimed at resolving the Syria crisis took place on 14 November 2015 in Vienna, immediately after the awful and gruesome attacks in Paris and Beirut. (See Pax Christi International’s statement here.) Participants at the Vienna meeting came from 17 nations, including Iran and Saudi Arabia, and included delegates from the United Nations and the European Union. A UN led political process including a timeframe has been decided. A roadmap has been agreed for ending the devastating and destabilizing war. Although this may not be the perfect plan, the international community should invest all its energy to ensure this is not another failed opportunity. The war in Syria must end.

Pax Christi International believes that this process should be aimed at bringing the fighting parties together in its broadest representation possible. For peace negotiations to be successful, all stakeholders need to be at the table. Hard work and transparent commitment from all parties involved must be undertaken to end the military escalation and to find a negotiated political solution. Pax Christi International is convinced that military actions cannot bring about peace in Syria…

Click here to read the rest of this piece.

REFUGEES: PCUSA endorses letter supporting an increase in funding for refugee-related accounts

Pax Christi USA has joined other organizations in endorsing this letter from Rep. Juan Vargas on supporting an increase in appropriations funding for refugee-related accounts.

Dear Colleague:

Please join us in supporting an increase in funding for refugee-related accounts for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016. On September 20, 2015, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the refugee ceiling for FY 2016 would increase to 85,000 from the standard worldwide refugee ceiling of 70,000. This would include at least 10,000 Syrian refugees to be resettled in the United States. From October 1, 2010, through August 31, 2015, the United States has admitted only 1,494 Syrian refugees, of which 1,300 of that total arrived after October 1, 2014.

As our international partners and state and local stakeholders begin to prepare for the increase in refugee resettlement, we must provide the adequate resources for long-term transitional assistance. The Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Appropriations have recently introduced the bipartisan The Middle East Refugee Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act. We are calling on their counterparts in the House to complement their efforts as we move forward in the appropriations process. As you know, the background checks required of refugees to the United States are the strictest and most rigorous of any visitor to this country and require substantial resources, not to mention the actual costs of resettlement….

To read the rest of this letter, click here.

SYRIA: Environmental impact of conflict in Syria could be disastrous

from PAX, a Pax Christi International member organization

2The ongoing conflict in Syria is likely to have a disastrous impact on the environment and public health, according to a new study published by PAX. Four years of fighting has left cities in rubble and caused widespread damage to industrial sites, critical infrastructure and the oil industry. Pollution from these forms of damage is likely to result in acute and chronic risks to civilians and will have a long-term impact on the environment that they depend on.

“With the additional attacks by Russia in or near Aleppo, which has numerous industrial complexes processing hazardous chemicals, existing environmental and public health risks from the ongoing conflict will only be compounded,” cautioned report author Wim Zwijnenburg, researcher for PAX.

Analysis of the fighting, which is based on satellite imagery, social media monitoring and the reports of UN agencies, has found that that there are already major problems around locations where hazardous chemicals are stored and processed. Industrial facilities such as chemical industries and the oil industry as well as critical infrastructure such as power plants and water and sewage systems have sustained severe damage. The shelling of residential areas has caused the destruction of the majority of Syria’s housing stock. This has created millions of tonnes of rubble, some of which contains hazardous materials such as asbestos, heavy metals and the toxic residues from conventional weapons. The breakdown of waste collection and management as a result of the conflict has led to the accumulation of solid household and industrial wastes, which has increased the spread of communicable diseases…

Read more at this link.

SYRIA: Waves of displaced Syrians only “tip of the iceberg” in larger crisis

from the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor

Geneva – As EU officials continue to squabble over how to respond to the growing wave of migrants and refugees, the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor is releasing an in-depth report using Lebanon as a case study of the larger crisis increasingly facing the global community.


“Most of the current debate has focused on the immediate crisis of the moment: how to stop smugglers and which countries should accept how many asylum seekers,” states the executive summary of the report. “However, there is an ever-growing problem that in the long run will exact an even higher price: the expanding proportion of refugees and forced migrants for whom displacement has become a chronic state.  In fact, the average period of time that a refugee spends out of his or her country now is 10 years.”

The Euro-Med report focuses on Lebanon because it now hosts more refugees per capita than any other country in the world (232 per 1,000 inhabitants), as well as the oldest population of long-term refugees (the Palestinians, living in limbo for 60 years now).

“Syria is currently the world’s biggest producer of both internally displaced people and refugees,” notes Pam Bailey, the researcher for Euro-Med who compiled the report. “And Lebanon is home to an estimated 1.5 million of these refugees—the highest per capita number of all the countries serving as haven. This huge influx is stressing local economies and generating xenophobia in Lebanon and other host countries, thus intensifying the drive to take tremendous risks by crossing the Mediterranean to try their chances in Europe.”…

Click here to read the rest of the story and the report.

REFLECTION: Millions of refugees have no place to call home

Tony Maglianoby Tony Magliano

The heartbreaking photo of the little Syrian refugee boy washed up dead on the shore of Bodrum, Turkey (see picture: http://bit.ly/1PZHvDV) strikingly illustrates the tragic plight of desperate refugees – mostly Syrian – fleeing for their lives from the Islamic State and other violent groups in the Middle East and Africa.

The 3-year-old boy, named Aylan, along with his 5-year-old brother, Galip, and their mother, Rehan, drowned after the raft carrying them capsized near the Turkish coast.

Millions of refugees are scrambling to escape from the life-threatening civil wars plaguing several countries from Nigeria to Pakistan.


According to the British newspaper The Independent, half of Syria’s population – approximately 11 million people – have been forced to flee; with four million living as refugees in foreign nations. And approximately 2.6 million Iraqis have been displaced, both due to civil wars and the barbarism of the Islamic State.

Matt Wilch, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) refugee policy advisor for Migration and Refugee Service, told me that of the four million Syrian refugees, 1.8 million are being hosted by Turkey, Jordan has 1 million, Egypt has 200,000, tiny Lebanon is hosting over 1 million, and ironically even war-torn Iraq has opened its doors to 200,000 Syrians.

But according to U.S. State Department figures, since March of 2011 – when the Syrian conflict started – only 1,554 Syrians have been admitted through the U.S. refugee resettlement program. This is shameful.

Wealthy Europe and the U.S. have a moral obligation to offer far more help.

Germany is providing an excellent example here. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said that any Syrian arriving in Germany would be granted asylum.

With 800,000 refugees expected to arrive in Germany before year’s end, Merkel has been urging Germans to rise to the challenge. She said, “There can be no tolerance of those who question the dignity of other people.”

Wilch said if the U.S. and other wealthy nations would provide much more aid to Syria’s neighboring nations, not only would refugees be able to benefit from improved services, but most would not feel compelled to take the long dangerous journey to Europe.

Wilch said only 37 percent of the needs of refugees are being funded in these neighboring host countries.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, approximately 2,500 people have perished en route to Europe since the beginning of this year alone.

The USCCB is urging Congress to increase the number of refugees allowed in the U.S. to 200,000 annually – 100,000 from Syria and 100,000 from other nations. Please contact your congressional delegation urging them to honor the bishops’ plea. And urge them to greatly increase aid to the Middle East nations hosting millions of refugees. The resources of these generous nations are stretched to the limit.

Also, to be of further help please go to this link, http://bit.ly/1LZxENG, at the Jesuit Refugee Service/USA to easily submit (click submit twice) a letter to your senators and congressperson on behalf of our suffering refugee brothers and sisters.

And to go the extra mile, kindly consider making a donation to Catholic Relief Services by going to this link, www.crs.org/stories/european-migrant/crisis/grows, and clicking “European Migrant Crisis Grows.” Then click “Donate Now.”

Pope Francis has strong words for those who would turn away refugees: It is “violence to erect walls and barriers to block those seeking a place of peace. It is violence to push back those fleeing from inhuman conditions in the hope of a better future.”

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. Please contact your diocesan newspaper and request that they carry Tony’s column. Tony is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings about Catholic social teaching. His keynote address, “Advancing the Kingdom of God in the 21st Century,” has been well received by diocesan gatherings from San Clemente, CA to Baltimore. Tony can be reached at tmag@zoominternet.net.

REFLECTION: Jesuit Refugee Service brings help to a Syria in crisis


by Thomas Reese, S.J., NCR

Jesuit Frs. Peter Balleis and Michael Zammit were in Washington in April, making the rounds of nongovernmental organizations and government offices to inform policymakers of the humanitarian crisis in Syria. Balleis is the international director of the Jesuit Refugee Service, and Zammit works with refugees and internally displaced people in Syria. They were also visiting JRS-USA, which is based in Washington. The interview was edited for length and clarity.

NCR: What is the Jesuit Refugee Service? What does it do?

Balleis: Jesuit Refugee Service is an organization around 35 years old. Today, we are working in 46 countries and last year reached out to around 760,000 people.

We move according to the crises in the world. Thirty-five years ago, during the Cold War, it was Asia-Pacific, helping refugees from Cambodia and Vietnam.

Then in the mid-1990s when Africa exploded, we continued in Asia-Pacific and other places like San Salvador, El Salvador, but the main focus became Africa with the Rwanda crisis, the Great Lakes crisis, Sudan and so on. More recently, the conflicts in Africa are more in the Sahel Zone. We work in the Central African Republic, Chad, and we have started in Cameroon. We are going to engage with the refugees who are victims of the Boko Haram...

Read the entire article by clicking here.