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Justice Friday highlights Syrian refugee crisis

| Monday, September 5, 2016

Dedicated to raising awareness of social justice topics, Saint Mary’s first Justice Friday of the school year focused on an increasingly widespread humanitarian issue that has forced countries to reconsider immigration policy: the Syrian refugee crisis. 

Led by senior Caylin McCallick, the discussion began by tracing the origins of the crisis.

“A few citizens put rebellious graffiti on a wall,” McCallick said. “They were promptly pushed down by those who agreed with the Syrian government and, in turn, more peaceful protests started in solidarity with this event until eventually, a civil war broke out.”

McCallick said surrounding countries and terrorist groups took part in this civil war as time went on.

“Both the rebel groups and the government have been accused of war crimes by the U.N., including things like murder, rape, torture and forced disappearances,” she said.

McCallick said terrorist groups such as the Islamic State (IS) offered the people of Syria protection for themselves and their family in a time when citizens felt desperate and hopeless, allowing the group to grow in the region.

“A group like IS could easily thrive in an environment that was suffering as badly as Syria was because you have turmoil, politics, fighting, bloodshed and people dying,” McCallick said. 

As the conflict intensified, many Syrian citizens fled the country, becoming refugees, she said. A refugee is defined as someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin due to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons such as their race, religion or nationality, according to McCallick. 

“They are people who are very much struggling and if they go back to their country, they won’t be safe,” McCallick said. 

While countries have struggled to accommodate this influx of refugees, McCallick said the United States has been one of the strongest supporters in providing aid for Syrian refugees.

“The U.S. has given $4.5 billion in aid and this year we expect to admit around 7,000 refugees,” she said.

McCallick said refugees currently undergo a more rigorous screening process than anyone else allowed entry into the United States, but that many states are worried there is not a strong enough vetting process to allow refugees into the country without endangering American citizens. 

“It’s a valid concern — we are worried about national security,” McCallick said. “There’s always problems with every process and it’s worth looking at [it] again, because this is a large group of people.”

However, junior Morgan Matthews said the refugee crisis is a problem without a clear solution.

“It’s very hard to say we should or shouldn’t [do something] without being properly educated on the subject matter,” she said. “It’s not like you can have just a surface-level knowledge, you have to understand the deep core of the situation before forming a viable opinion.”

McCallick said as a college student, the refugee crisis can feel like a distant problem, but it is nevertheless important to take action.

“It’s important to do research and vote on who you think has a comprehensive plan surrounding the refugee crisis,” McCallick said. “We need to stand up for the sake of people who are suffering.”

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