tv Syrian Refugees Discuss their Experiences CSPAN3 May 9, 2016 8:39am-10:27am EDT
that we had a very normal life. we used to go to restaurants. we used to go to the beach. we used to do everything that you guys do here. we used to go to universities, form friendships, have girlfriends, everything that you can imagine. so it is not the country that some people would imagine, the country, the image that isis might try to enforce right now. i consider myself as a person who had a wonderful childhood in syria. all the memories i have are a very beautiful country that i love a lot and i appreciate a lot and i enjoyed a lot. however, one thing started to happen in 2011 everything changed. this change that we had as individuals and especially as
young people is huge because you are from a very safe country where you had everything you wanted. we had worries and worry about our future and everything and a lot of short comings and concerns. you are now living in a war where on a daily basis you experience feelings of fear. on a daily basis i remember like sitting on the news to see if someone like we know died. you would -- whenever you hear a bombing we would be like checking on facebook and asking each other like do we know anybody who happened to be in the location of the bombing. it turned from a very normal life to very not normal life where it is dictated by fear,
dictated by uncertainty, dictated by all other problems that young people like me would have. what am i going to do about the future? what am i going to do if i lose someone i love. what would i do if someone from my family dies? it's just those are very real questions that we had to go through. so i can tell you, i can assure you that there is not one syrian who wasn't -- whose life wasn't disrupted by the war whether from losing someone you care about or love, whether from getting your building bombed or losing years of your life while you are waiting to the next step that is never there that will never come.
all of those changed us as individuals. so for me as a person i was very, very lucky. i still count myself as one of the luckiest because through the same organization i was given the opportunity to move to the u.s. in 2013 to transfer to illinois school of technology. i was given like just a golden chance of relilding my life. i was given this opportunity along with 32 other students. so here once we got here we always have this feeling that we should do something. we feel that no one really -- everyone really cares. of course, you do. like the governments of the worlds, they do care. in london a few months ago they pledged $10 billion. how would i tell that to one of my friends when they told me
that their life is over? i cannot translate the 4 billion that the u.s. donated for the person who lost every confidence in the future. i cannot say to a girl who lost her parents. i just can't. it's very difficult. so we feel that we -- i personally feel that as a syrian i have a responsibility and duty to do something to help like create this opportunity for those people. so this i felt that the 33 students who came to chicago do share with me this vision that we do have responsibility. we want to do something. we are all very eager to succeed just to prove that we as syrians are not what you know about us. it's not what you read about us
in some news outlet. we are normal people who can do normal things. those 30 students now some of them got offers from google, from apple, goldman sachs, from every big company. that is very difficult. if you came to the u.s. and tell me you are a software engineer at google i probably would not believe it. they are working so hard. they are doing the extra step just to prove to the world. there is this extra motivation for us to prove to the world that we are normal. and at the same time that also drive us to do things, to drive positive change to other syrians, to drive positive -- that is what drove me to start this petition. i was frustrated that no one was doing or saying anything. it was like a problem that was very isolated from the u.s.
political scene or from the u.s. humanitarian scene. so i wanted to do this and i did it and i did it with many bunch of groups of amazing people who helped us carry this forward. i'm very grateful for the administration for listening to us. who cares about an immigrant who came from syria two years ago? i felt appreciated and felt that my voice was heard. that is a step in the right direction. of course, the numbers can always be bigger. at least it was a step in the right direction. so some of the thoughts that i constantly have. do we deserve as syrians what is happening to us? this is a question i constantly ask myself. do we deserve the lack of engagement from other countries or the lack of interest like american people or european
people in our causes? my answer is maybe yes. we don't have -- we never had a civic society that can carry those causes and those topics forward. but what i'm trying to say right now is that we need help to create the civic society that we never had. and sometimes as governments or administrations they tend to focus a lot on humanitarian response. and they forget about the human aspect of the things. they focus on the humanitarian aspect but not on the human aspect. there is a lot of -- i'll give you an example. for thousands of syrians who are here in the united states it takes years to process their asylum applications. you know how difficult and how
challenging this can be for a person who doesn't know if in two years will be deported. on top of everything that you as an individual have to care about, your career, your work, your relationship, your family, you don't really know if you will be deported. it is not the ideal situation that would help those people to do things because they just simply do not know if they can do it. another example is that we as syrian youth empowerment, an initiative where we help syrian students in syria, syrian high school students in syria, we offer them free classes and then provide mentorship and work with universities to try to get them scholarships and we have just started but we work with some students informally and there is one yesterday got his visa and he is going to harvard. another guy to m.i.t.
i am very excited. for this very tiny organization that we are obviously trying to do something meaningful for those people to build the civic society that we aspire in the future to have the people who are ready, we are facing tremendous, tremendous obstacles. one is the finances. so by finances i don't mean fundraising. if they want to transfer me the money so i can transfer it somewhere else it would be a disaster. i just cannot do that because my name would be somewhere like someone would check my name and as a syrian i cannot do that so the laws doesn't help me to have financial flexibility. the second thing is the visa. so i talk to many visa offices who served in different countries. they told me about the system which is the system -- i'm not
saying favorable treatment for syrians but it is very, very difficult even if you get like full scholarship from harvard you might be denied easily because the laws that like pass in congress 40 years ago just does not -- there are a lot of complications that make it way more difficult to give someone a visa from a country that has war no matter how promising he is. so those are the things that i think about. those are the things that i care about. those are the things i try to mobilize people to always take actions and do something. what happened to me is in a way or another helping the 45,000 refugees who will come here because our group advocated for those people. those people who come here maybe one day will build the syria
that we aspire. might be the people who would transfer the western values to the middle east. those might be the people who would be the next doctors and next lawyers and next journalists and next philosophers that help us build this civic society and this platform. so this is what i wanted to share with you. thank you. [ applause ] >> george, thank you very much for reminding us that syria is not what we see every day on our screen, that there is a much deeper soul to it. that was powerful. you are bringing us to our next speaker. today inside syria we will talk about how to give assistance.
no foreigner really can dare even take the risk that you would have to incur to go inside syria. beyond your personal story which i'm sure you will tell us about, how is this movement of civil society developing? i'm quite impressed to see how fired up they are despite the tremendous odds they face. >> thank you very much. actually, i love being here in georgetown because when i arrived to the u.s. the first place i stayed in was georgetown hotel and conference center. whenever i came here i have memories about having a future. just three years ago, let's say first of may, 2013, i will give you like my diary. let's say you are reading my diary and reading about 1st of may, 2013. i woke up today.
i checked my phone to see if there was electricity to charge it because we barely have electricity for one or two hours per day. i opened the tap to wash my face and there was no water. i had to take from our stored water and i tried to clean up my face and be as decent as a human being should be. imagine that you are leaving your home like kracrossing the building and start running because there is a sniper two miles away shooting every movable object. just because he sees somebody like me assuming that i'm with some part who are fighting against him so he is shooting me. and there were many times i hear like the voice of those bullets crossing through my ears even when i was with my mom. they ask why they are shooting
nobody knows. why are you there? because where can we go? my day usually starts with going to a school where i used to work. even though i was in the city where there were like huge fights and conflicts, because of my work as an ngo volunteer and many other organizations like i was an intern in syria. i worked with like palestinians, iraqis but i never imagined i would work with syrian refugees. i had like always like 12 to 15 hours of working. i used to go to school nearby where there was 1,000 displaced people. we used to give them food and organize them. i don't know how to describe that. it is beyond any imagination.
imagine a big school where each class has at least 25 to 30 people. and i was the person responsible to put them there. even beyond like they barely can be able to sleep there but we had no other choice since the number were limited and we have to put as much people as we can. people in my city i have to leave because i was a journalist. even though i was not writing or criticizing the regime or the other part but i was well known and like respected my community. that is why i was offered to work for their regimes as a reporter and offered me to work for them and also i refuse. so actually being in the middle, not being with any part makes the other people think that you
are with the other part so you always receive threats. so my goal each day was surviving until the end of the day. and just like in the story but at sunset you have to go home otherwise clashes start over in what we call the party. what we mean by the party is the sound of bullets, the sound of everything. everything started by the sunset. and last during the whole night until the next day. one of the memories i have there where i stayed in my building where there is a tank next to my building shooting the other part. it was so noisy but i had no other choice because if i want to leave my building i was trapped. there was a sniper. and then after ten days of no electricity and some food and my small cat who was trying to understand what is going on we
tried to get our kmachances and start running across the fire of that sniper. i don't know what to add. they said everything. sometimes i have this memories, flashbacks like those memories like i was remembering when i was covering one of the church that is where i met her for the first time. these memories they always come to you. it always puts you in a bad mood. i feel like anything i will do, any success will be nothing compared to what i did back home. i would like to also to thank the u.s. government for two things. first, i came in fellowship sponsored by u.s. department of state called community solution. i was the first and the only syrian accepted into that. we were supposed to learn about the community and then go back and try to adopt things that we
have learned here in syria. unfortunately, when i came here the chemical weapon incident just started and u.s. threats of intervening in syria. as a journalist who was writing and has like 20,000 followers, i'm here to be trained on some sort of spying or game so it was dangerous for me to return. so i had to start a new life here. so sometimes when they ask are you a refugee or something, i say i'm technically a refugee since i have been forced to leave my country. otherwise i would stay there. why should i leave? the u.s. government gave me a future by accepting me here, by giving -- so this kind of thing,
they give me hope otherwise i would be arrested or killed or kidnapped somewhere because i refuse to raise arm against anyone else. it's not my only point of view. there are like hundreds of thousands of people living the same thing. which is why i have been here, why my friends and colleagues have been here. we are trying to convince the american people that not all syrians believe in violence. not all syrians wants to be in a regime. if we have a couple of hundreds making poor choices by being in those doesn't mean that all syrians are bad. i'm here. i have a good life now. i'm working as a freelance and working and trying to be advocate and promote the syrian cause. i try to take advantage of being here in d.c. to attend events
about syrian and syrian refugees. i used to stand up in every event and say i'm syrian. i don't cause any threats. as you can see i'm not this stereotypical perspective about syria, the people you used to see in movies, the bad guys who will bomb anything. even seeing silly questions or nothing. i wanted to make people know that they might be syrian among you and might be noticing them and they will not do anything bad to you. i try to do that since joining organizations here in d.c. -- like trying to have scores, blaming this part or the other part saying the regime, no it is isis. it's not like this. it has been five years. so i think nobody is right and the other is wrong.
there is no ultimate villain who if we eliminate him everybody will be happy. now, we have a crisis now. we have a civil war with people fighting, trying to kill each other. all we have to do now is try to save those who have potentials and refuse to be dragged into this vacuum of violence. try to give them the ability to be heard. so i would like to thank you. i'm celebrating that just like a couple of hours ago my city aleppo has a cease fire for just 48 hours. so my family is still safe for 48 hours hopefully. i would like to ask you something. i would like all of you to stand up for a moment of silence for all of those who got killed in my city and i'm hoping that others don't have the same fate.
thank you very much. [ applause ] >> we would listen to you for much more time if we had. i know it is painful to bring to us the angst that all of you are living thinking of your relatives and family living in syria. >> we all have families. i try to talk about different perspective. my family is still there. every moment to check if they are alive.
they have horrible stories about what has happened and bombs and bullets and everything. >> thank you. i forgot to mention when i introduced shelly that he was the head operation for the yu united nation relief operation in jordan dealing with palestinian refugees. he has experience in the middle east. when things are difficult for refugees, it's part of the job description. in the case of the syrian crisis i think former high commissioner have tried to raise repeatedly. what sort of challenge did you face when you raised that alarm? what is your experience? >> it was about a year ago that we were in the same library, beautiful library. the former high commissioner was
here. i'm afraid that some of the points i'm going to make he had to make last year and the year before much more eloquently. he was the high commissioner. the new high commissioner is doing the same. the first thing that unites us, i think the whole u.n. system is just one part is the wish for peace. that has to happen. all that we do in cooperation with ngos, nongovernmental organizations and there are hundreds of them big and small, national, syrian and international, american and european and from elsewhere. all that we do is somehow try to relieve the pain but the solution is peace. 48 hours simply isn't enough, that's for sure. against the background of
continued failure to actually come to some resolution to the war -- and it's a mega war, not just in syria. it is next door in iraq and there are risks of spellover beyond -- until such time as the war does come to an end our montruthat must find ways to find safety, to have access to territory, to be able to move and to be able to make their claim, to hear their story so that they're not subject to forcible return and they're able during the time that they are forced to be in exile to have as normal a life as possible.
and michelle was talking about 2013 as a watermark year. in fact, it is true that over the last couple of years in the absence of sustained investment our budgets are all under funded quite significantly not withstanding the very generous support from u.s. taxpayer and u.s. congress and in particular through the state department. not withstanding refugees are suffering the consequence. that finally led to impoverishment. we have data from the world bank clearly reflecting that refugees in jordan and lebanon are in a big way talking major 80% to 90% are living below the poverty line. that is a progressive impoverishment and sustained despair that created the situation that led so many hundreds of thousands of people
to try to find another place where they can put their children in school. it was not more complicated a motivation as you're trying with higher education for families to protect their children just as you or i would. when i was in jordan i went to syria every opportunity i could. it was such an authentic place. beautiful place, forget the food. what was remarkable about it is that it really was a middle income country. now by no means it is, a middle income country where like everywhere else people want their children to go to school. they want to have a regular job. they want to take care of their daily affairs. that was impossible for refugees living in jordan, lebanon and turkey not withstanding the policies of the governments to allow them access.
what has happened since is another story. i don't want to see the zero on the sheet of paper saying i'm out of time. i would like to highlight perhaps the fact that many of you here don't know that when we see the pictures of refugees in camps that's where the journalists and the congressional delegations, that's where visitors are able to go fairly safely. 60% of refugees globally and 90% of syrian refugees are living outside of camps. they are living in cities and towns or in shelters or in renovated apartments or just shelters and the new development over the last several months is that, again, after considerable encouragement and advocacy there
is a shift in the recognition that something has to be done to support the host communities in order to allow for more asylum space so that the refugees aren't considered to be and do not remain, if you will, a burden on the local economy and on the host population. we are hopeful. the united states has been instrumental in working with the world bank, other international financial institutions to turn the corner in that respect but really we have to look forward now to a new way to organize humanitarian and development responses in the future when there are new emergencies. the last thing i would say is that it is very important that as many refugees as possible are given the opportunity to move legally. we heard a lot about irregular
movements. when we were talking about resettlement to the united states, they weren't pictures of asylum officers interviewing a refugee for an hour and a half, taking down all of the information about their stories to validate them and to verify who they are and where they were coming from. on cnn and elsewhere we saw pictures of masses of people going through fields of croatia and masdoania as if that is resettlement. it is simply not the case. so it is very important that we promote resettlement. we promote other legal avenues whether through scholarship programs to brazil sp elsewhere to allow as many people. they will still be the minority, but allow as many people as possible to find safety because that is the kind of international solidarity that will encourage jordan and lebanon and turkey, iraq and egypt to do as much as they have
done to continue to do more because the war is still going on and the refugee crisis will persist for years to come in one form or another. with that i want to acknowledge the great support that we have gotten from the united states and other countries and to just say that this is a struggle that will continue for as long as the international community is unable to help syria find peaceful solution to this terrible war. thank you. [ applause ] >> thank you very much. i must say that i'm quite stimulated by the little note of optimism i heard in your last comments where i tend to become more depressed by the week particularly when tried to host special meeting of resettlement and where european countries were noncommittal despite the
fact that they want people to stay outside their borders so they don't come illegally. i think we can discuss that. thanks for jour sense of optimism. it is great to have the agency still thinking they can fix that disaster. thank you very much. simon, the u.s. has been the leader in humanitarian relief in the past 30 years. it has been since the beginning of the syrian crisis the main donor and one of the most engaged governments. we are the leader but where is the pack and you can't find them? what are the challenges you have faced in the international community trying to respond to the syrian crisis? >> thank you. thank you all for being here today. it's great turnout. keep thinking it's friday afternoon because i'm taking tomorrow off. thank you for being here on what seems to me a friday afternoon. i represent the humanitarian arm
of the state department. one of the difficulties of working in humanitarian work is that we don't actually solve the political crisises that cause the humanitarian harm in the first place. but we do very much hope that our colleagues and led by secretary kerry right now are able to achieve a peaceful resolution of the crisis because that is what will cause the most humanitarian good. the continuation of the current cessation of hostilities is saving a lot of lives. nothing is more important than that going on and continuing. part of that is allowing greater numbers of humanitarian shipments in to those inside syria that are in great need. 5 million people have been displaced inside syria. and we are hoping that the international community is able to put more pressure on the syrian government particularly the russians and iranians to allow the shipments in.
as of up to now the record has been really, really poor. united states is the largest contributor to humanitarian needs around the world. it is about $6 billion a year that is real number. prm is budget is half of that. the other half is controlled by office of foreign disaster assistance. they are close partners. we work in different ways. prm works closely with international organizations. our chief partner is unhcr. we are largest funder of unhcr, international committee for red cross, iom and we work with many other organizations and also with ngos, about 9% of funding goes through ngos. we are not just about money. money counts and money is important but we work with our
diplomatic colleagues of which i am one to get our message out around the world to improve humanitarian care. so we work with our allies and we do have allies supporting our efforts. there are people behind me, standing next to me in this fight to echo the european humanitarian organization that is part of the european union. the large european countries such as germany, uk i believe is second largest contributor in the world, canada, australia play large roles. we would like to see that expand to other countries such as china. the gulf states have made steps forward. we would like to see them do more. but we use our diplomacy not just to look for more money but to push for goals and policy changes that will help refugees around the world. we do that in such ways as
simple ways as pushing countries to keep borders open so refugees can come in. we try to get them to change the ways that they treat refugees once they are inside their countries. and it's a tough -- that is tough because countries make great sacrifices. if you look at turkey and lebanon and jordan, just lebanon a quarter of the population right now is syrian refugees. can you imagine how we would be reacting if a quarter of our population were canadians, god forbid. perhaps not a great example. it's tough to go into governments and say thank you very much, you are doing a great job but you need to let people work because if they work they can support themselves. they reduce the dependency on your social services. they have dignity and able to afford to send their children to school and can you open up
schools for children. you don't want to have hundreds of thousands of children here for four or five years who have no education. it is not good for you. we will help you pay for some of this. we will contribute. the world will contribute but you need to do a lot. it's a hard message to carry but one we are carrying. next fall for the first time since the crisis began every syrian child in jordan will be in school. it's a big improvement. [ applause ] over half inside lebanon. more to do in lebanon and turkey is a really different and difficult place because language barrier. we have a long way to go in turkey but we have made some progress. i want to talk about -- how am i doing on time? two? very quickly, series of
conferences which will cull minate. we are using these summits to push for greater world involvement in the areas that i just talked about. and finally, a word on resettlement. the united states is the largest resettlement country. we resettle more refugees than all countries put together through unhcr. the total number of refugees will resettle each year is 1% of the world's refugee population. there is a reason for that. resettlement hasn't been seen since after the endo china project as a solution. what we have done is we have resettled people that aren't doing well in the areas where they fled. we take the most vulnerable populations. i'm not putting a value judgment on this. i want to make the point that
those that argue for us bringing in many more refugees need to understand this will require fundamental change in the way that the system works. and a good deal of money because it is very expensive to resettle refugees. we are increasing the number of refugees that we are bringing into the country. it has been a tough year because we have had a lot of political opposition but we have had a lot of grass roots support for our program. it hasn't stopped the growth at all. we did 70,000 last three years. our plan is to do 85,000 this year and 100,000 next year. we will bring in 10,000 syrians this year which is too small a number. that number we plan to grow in the outgoing years. we hope it is a start to a really strong syrian resettlement program. thank you. [ applause ]
>> thanks for reminding us that humanitarian is not just providing money but doing humanitarian diplomacy. i think that is very important certainly i would gladly acknowledge the u.s. has been very much a leader in that field. now, everybody has been extremely constructive and extremely polite to each other and thankful. remember when i was at the u.n. i was thrown into much more turbulent waters in panels. i would like to have a brief discussion between panelists before we give the floor to all of you to ask the questions you have. it is good to see that world bank is coming in, we talk about future legal pathways. haven't we missed the boat? can we still repair the level of despair in which we find the syrians when we visit the region? if i was to ask one of you apart
from thanking the u.s. government and u.n. for what they do, what is it you feel has gone wrong in the way the international community has responded? anything can be said very politely. i would like to generate some of the feelings you hear among syrian society when you speak between yourselves what would you like to tell us? >> i would like to say that we are desperate. we are in need to have support. it would be great if you can help us by opening the doors in front of syrian students at least like as george said we know a lot of people that got full tuition scholarship but did not get the visa. the simple answer that this is because we know you are from syria and you have war. certainly you are not going to
go back home. of course, we are not going to get -- amazing education to go back and die in syria. my mom applied for the visa last week. she took a long way, 18 hours on a bus trip with the dangers of the road and a lot of restriction because they have quarter of the population are now syrians. they allowed her for 48 hours. she went to the embassy. i sent her all the supportive documents. they told her no. we can't give you a visa. when will i be able to see my family? in heaven, maybe? it is difficult for me. this is my third year. i'm unable to go to my city of aleppo. i'm hopeless to be able to see
my mom. it's breaking my heart deeply. >> should i answer? >> please. >> try to take responsibility. it's cruel and really hard. i feel for you. i can't imagine what it would be like for me in the same position. i come from an immigrant family. it always strikes me how different it was for my parents because of their ability to go back and see their relatives and communicate and know their relatives are safe. it is so dramatically different. all i can say in your specific question, it's not a great answer but i have to be honest that the way the visa law is written is it requires people to prove that they will return home. so it's obscene really making people who are in a war zone apply to this because how are they going to prove they go
home? i don't see change in that unless there is a change in the law. now, what we are doing in another area realizing that what a horrible thing this is there are a lot of people who have immigrant visa, not visitor visa, but immigrant visa petitions like many syrians and they are unable to -- there is a waiting list. you have to wait so many years to get there. we are allowing anyone that has an immigrant visa petition waiting to join relatives in the states to apply now as a refugee. we are just starting up that program. so that population will be able to address but we won't be able to address others without a legal change. >> you know, after five years and it seems that our leaders like from all parts, they screw things up. they missed it.
so what i want to say is instead of saying like the leader after election will address it differently. instead of being afraid from bringing syrians here to stay, why should we think positively and bring those people in the middle who refuse violence and war, try to raise them on democracy and great principles, those will be the new leaders that can end the conflict. otherwise we are trapped instead of looking for syrian benefits and interests, they are taking care of themselves living in hotels and all of this. why the u.s. government always are skeptical about syrians being here and does not want to go back? we had a great country. we learned many things from the american values, the democracy. why should we increase this and
have more here and give the opportunity be the future leaders so they can go back and help in leading the community. many people hate all parts. my family hate all parts. my friends had opposition. they need a new voice. why the u.s. does not work on helping those who are voiceless and bring them here to study and to learn new things and then those people will become our voices. i think millions of students will join them. why they don't think that? >> you are asking the wrong person. i am a humanitarian. i work on the refugee issue. you need to ask political leaders why that is. from my point of view there has been nothing crueller than sort of the focussing of legitimate
fear on terrorism but the focussing that on the refugee population is horrific. people who are fleeing from terrorists are being branded by some as a threat and it's just ridiculous. but your larger question on why we don't have programs outside of the refugee world to bring in other people i don't have an answer for you. >> i think what you say makes sense. i am witness to the efforts that has been done on the hill to debupg. prm has tremendous advocate in that fight. i hope we will move where you want to be but an election year is not the right time to push this issue. >> maybe the new administration will make it. >> we'll see that.
we can have some hope that perhaps next year will be easier to push some of these issues. in the previous panel at georgetown a group of students came to say we want to try to build a movement that will pressure universities, private universities in the u.s. to offer grants. this is just a temporary state. it will achieve part of what you are saying which is training people to be future to their own country. there is a movement among students which i think is reassuring on values that predominate in this country. george? >> my question is a bit lighter question and easier to answer. so those things that -- >> it's for you actually. so i do understand the challenges that are implied by questions.
because there are a lot of factors that the u.s. government cannot control in those cases and there are laws that have been there for decades and it's not magic to change them. my question is, why asylum seekers who there are 5,000 asylum seekers in the united states who are until now, some people three years and 3 1/2 years did not get an interview. here my question is, isn't it something that could easily or should easily from theoretical standpoint be addressed in a faster way? those people who are here who are already here who have been cleared and got the visas, it's only about during this interview, this two hours interview and making a decision why we are keeping those people hanging not knowing anything? i ask this question because i believe that this is something
that the u.s. government can easily control. >> i don't really know. i don't work in asylum. i think that the department of homeland security has so many officers that can do the interviews and using them to interview refugees overseas asylum cases here and cases are coming across the southwest border with increased numbers. i just don't think there are enough people to process the number that are coming in. now, there's a logical question after that is, why don't they get more people? i don't know. >> we're addressing you as the u.s. government, i'm sorry. so i apologize. >> you can tell them on the lunch break or anything. you can meet them. this is the nearest opportunity for us. >> i'll pass along the message. >> nothing personal, just like,
you are the only person we know that can meet with them. >> you were saying that we failed. and that we're trying to be positive and optimistic and look forward but there has been a failure. need it be said, the number of deaths and prolonged conflict, not just in syria, around syria and iraq, displaced persons and now europe and challenges there and the risks to risk international law and european law and what that means for asylum and the polarization of public opinion in europe and united states. i guess it's good because for every critical xenophobe there's some positively engaged but the public opinion has become very challenging and then it becomes
personal. the first refugees resettled to kansas city. it was almost -- when that happened and there was a family supposed to go to texas, and they had to stop in new york and weren't sure are we going to be safe going into texas? that situation was unheard of. never had to deal with that. so, yes, there's been a failure, also been a failure in south sudan and realize the plans we've got for individual support for community support for sustained engagement at the humanitarian level. more could have been done. it crystallized -- it all crystallized recently, i'm afraid. and i guess positively, to the extent that there's now as simon
mentioned a real focus on education. the flow of so many poor refugees to europe struck a nerve that still hurts. but it woke the continent. one of the motivations for that as i mentioned besides despair and cutoff of food aid, one of the push factors, positive push factors was we want to educate our kids because so many are being left behind in asylum. now there is that positive spin. we can only hope that resources will go in. we know the host countries are prepared to support it. as far as secondary and tertiary scholarships and the like, from the days that unhcr was helping south african refugee students in the '60s and '70s, that's
always been a high per capita investment, it makes a lot of sense. there are organizations, there are states like germans and program that are really working now and are getting better endo youed and we can only hope subject of course to visas that we'll have more students coming to the united states. we know that universities and the students that are behind this -- these associations are really willing. there's johns hopkins is prepared to take a student. 10 will welcome 20 and 30 and 50. in the meantime people are dying and the war is continuing and the international community has failed. >> i certainly agree with the focus on education. we were recently in southern turkey and asking people why do you move to europe. i thought i knew but we would
ask lots of people. i thought the main reason would be tension of the local communities and no possibility to return and no jobs. and the answer we got most often, education for the children. i repeat that, those who move have the means to move. many don't have that. turkey is considering work permits for the percentage of refugees at a time when there are lots of problems in turkey. i'm glad they are trying to push that and hope it will give some results. thank you very much for this discussion. we'll open to debates in the audience. if you raise your arm, wave it to i see. i have lights in the eyes. yes. >> hi, i was recently in europe a few months ago and turkey as
well for that matter and i was speaking to a swedish woman who was around my age. she was young. and the way she was talking about refugees was so kind of disgusting. she's from a country where they took in lots of refugees and i'm an american and we have so many trouble taking 10,000. and what really shocked me was that this is very educated woman and even earlier, she was talking about -- i mean all kinds of animal rights. it was a cognitive dissidence when it came to these group of peoples as opposed to issues she feels strongly about. it was just like very alarming, being in europe at that time and seeing the way -- it wasn't just these fringe movements, it was a very kind of large segment of the population had very kind of
racist ideas of syrian -- the migrants coming in. i wanted to ask, how how are these migrants adjusting? has it gotten better or worse? >> okay. the short answer to my your question is that i'm not the expert on sort of reception and integration process. i would since we're in georgetown, i would refer everybody to the migration policy institute as one source of very, very reliable and good comparative information about the resettlement and integration, to use that term, experience of refugees in the united states as well as in
europe. i don't want to presume that i know how there was this whole expectation that refugees would bring a boom to the german economy. that seems not to be immediately the case, from what i've read. on the other hand this is not something that happens overnight. there are challenges in terms of getting employment. there are challenges in terms of societal acceptance and the like. but as far as that woman's attitude is concerned, one of the things where there has been failure that i should have mentioned is in political leadership. where angela merkel and president obama as well have stood out and of course, prime minister in canada and several others is that they've -- they didn't -- they tried to leave public opinion. in some of the other european countries, i'm afraid, they either led them in a negative way and i won't name the countries, but they've got
barbed wire around them now. or they've instilled in the population sufficient doubt and you know, that such opinions flourished. that's not good for us for syrians. i dare say for muslim refugees in general. if it's not good for syrians or muslim refugees, it's not good for any refugee. >> can i add, one of the reasons that our program is so successful despite the recent attacks on it. we've never had attacks like this before, is because our emphasis on immigration. we spread -- settle refugees around 300 sites around the country. we as a public/private partnership, use ngos to resettle them and working with local community and charities and ngos. integrating society, finding jobs and getting kids in school. one of the great things about the u.s. is any child gets to go to school. there's never a question of what's your status or anything like that.
they get to go to school. it's worked really well for us. one thing we find is that anybody that's met a refugee in the states is positive towards the refugee experience. we don't meet many people -- i can't think of a single example like the swedish person you met. the people who don't like refugees in the states haven't met them yet. so our goal is to get them to meet them. >> not find them in d.c. >> there are exceptions. >> i have a question as a follow-up, i'm a foreign service officer and now live in the middle of the country in colorado and watching this discussion this year with the political climate that we have, it occurs to me that perhaps there's been a failure of unhcr or someone to somehow educate people in the u.s. and perhaps
elsewhere about what is a refugee and who's a refugee and who's a migrant. many people in the middle of the country, think they are all the same. they think of mexicans crossing border and syrian refugees as kinds of all the same. i think if people had a better understanding of what a refugee is and what they've gone through, perhaps the political dialogue would be more reasonable. i don't know who would be responsible for that but it's a serious problem. >> i couldn't agree with you more. after elan washed up on the shore of turkey, there was an outpouring of sympathy and empathy and generosity that we were looking for for a long time around the syria crisis. shortly there after there was
the paris bombing and famous passport that threw the refugee narrative topsy-turvy and san bernardino that brought it home to the united states. it was impossible for us to counter and clarify and he had indicate if, you will, partly because everybody was watching -- i won't name the news networks that were showing migrants coming, you know, in streams and masses through muddy fields, however, however sad those stories they still represented a massive threat. that was popularized in the media and in this electoral season. and it was conflated too a certain extent with what's happening south of the united states border. and the language there of illegal, irregular, and all of
that, made things and still do make things very difficult in terms of clarifying that these are refugees, notwithstanding u.s. history. i mean, we know as americans who refugees are. we know about the immigration story of the united states and we know there's a certain mixing there from the days of the pilgrims but nevertheless it got manipulated this year. this was a very bad year to have a refugee crisis in the united states. >> one thing in what's happened in europe and what happens in the u.s., the resettlement, you select who comes and there's a vetting process, it's extremely organized and takes a lot of time. it's very organized. what happened in europe, everybody arrives uninvited which is what the people who oppose the movement claim very strongly. they could have had protection before that. if they come here, it's because they want a migration outcome and decide where they go. they don't want to be told where
they can be protected. a year ago, the european union made a proposal to its member states, which was not perfect but had the right elements. keep them in greece, process them, let's relocate them by having an agreement sharing between the members and those who don't qualify as refugees and it was not syrians coming, some refugees and some less so. they were not able to get the member states to agree. so the situation deteriorated and more people come to the point of the recent agreement, which is basically an agreement not wanting anyone. that's why i tend to be a little bit more pessimistic right now because we're not showing the syrians any hope in the coming couple of years. i think that's stressful. for your message on large scale presentation of what are the differences to public opinion, these are very expensive
programs and right now, i'm witness how the u.n. is struggling to deliver the very basic with budgets that are never fully funded and even less funded year after year. they don't have the band width to start such a larger public education program. >> i am from syria, i'm a new comer here in america, two weeks ago. i'm married before seven years from america. after six years i have a visa. i give $2,000 about this visa it takes and for doctor, for street, okay. i'm a refugee before three years. i work with ngos a lot of time with unhcr and irc, and my wife,
my wife from america, from chicago. what future for unhcr or ngos. i'm sorry, my english is not good, okay, but not bad. >> don't worry. >> i hope you understand me, okay? before the situation i'm arabic teacher. i have 400 student 150 from america. i have a little student. but if i want ask, what the future after the refugee in america, okay, not important, now i'm here. my goal, i'm coming to america but after america, okay, i don't have any opinion about life here. after two weeks, i have am closing my eyes what i want to
hear. what i want in america. i don't understand anything here. okay? if the syrian refugee come in, what's have here, what have in germany, what have in france? this is what's the problem for syrians. syrian refugee not so much about immigration and money and everything, just one piece, before the situation in syria, all of the syrians is happy. never i see syrians sleep in the street. never i see any syrian want to eat. all of the people have work. all of the people have everything i want to understand what the future for refugee. thank you. >> refugees who settle in the u.s., i know the first years are difficult, many have to do two jobs and learn how to access school for the children and health care, sets, it's
complicated. but refugees who settle here do very well because they have these will to recover the time they have lost during the conflict. i would not despair. maybe one day they decide to go back to their home if conditions back home allow that. i don't think you have -- coming here is necessarily permanent. but i'm positive about the way this country allows resettled refugees to start a new life, hard work, no doubt about it. but it works. i've seen refugees from somalia and nepal and burma, really getting their way here. refugees from iraq a few years ago who came after the iraq invasion. i would have some hope. but maybe -- >> well, i agree with you. i think that america as a country, the culture in america
is very helpful for new comers to integrate. i personally never had a problem in interdg rating and talking to americans or anything like that. so i don't know if i understood your question very well but if i did, then i think i think that the u.s. as a culture would be very helpful for i to integrate. but then if your question is what would happen next? what would happen with peace -- when the war ends? i believe that there is no -- like you can leave whenever you want. i don't think anyone would make you stay where you don't want to. sfl one of the things i noticed is much more engagement by the syrian american community and largely broadly defined since
many have syrian descent. the arab-american community in the arab-american institute, syrian-american medical association, i mean, a number of organizations are engaged not just in providing money but they are becoming more engaged with nongovernmental organizations to help syrians coming and advocating but also doing. i think that's a very positive reflection of the die as per ra becoming supportive of new arrivals. >> please, go ahead. >> one of the reasons we have this public/private partnership is ats least when refugees are v resettled through our program, they are assigned an organization which helps them get settled and sort of watches over them while they are first there and connects them with other people from the refugee
community. so we often see groups of refugees working in the same place. and when a new refugee comes, they'll bring that refugee along for a job interview. same with schools, local ngos will bring the children to schools and set things up. we don't just drop a family off. i'm not saying it's not hard, it's really hard. new country, you often have to take a job below the skill level of what you can do in your own language but we also don't drop refugees oof by themselves and tell them to make do. >> i think there is an organization in chicago, syrian community network, runs by susan ar as, they support a lot of syrian refugees and they have a lot of families who came as refugees from syria. it's going to be great if you would like to be in touch with them. they are really helpful.
>> good afternoon, i have a couple of questions, the first one is kind of short. sim keer yus where in syria most of the refugees are coming from. i hear a lot about the political division within syria, and christians and muslims -- sorry, sunnis. are most of the refugees from one ethnic group or the other or is it a wide diverse array of people who are coming from there? and the second question, which is more challenging i think is do you think it's ceasier to get a political solution to solve the refugee crisis or to solve the actual syrian conflict? do you think it would be easier
to get the eu, russia and u.s. to agree to a solution that would help quell the conflict in syria or that make it easier for us to bring refugees here? >> can i? >> yes. i would like to take the second one. since i'm reading area everything, in short, in syria, everybody is convinced that is winning. and in negotiation, they don't tend to offer any compensation or like compromising anything. so any conference like just the last one, geneva, i don't know what the number is, they met and agreed on nothing. everybody comes with very high demands, asking for impossible from the other part. the thing is, i have to admit that as syrians, we don't know how to negotiate.
we usually come with big heads, like asking for impossible. so people like after a couple of years, like what he said in 2013 people start losing hope because they saw after one conference after another, they found nothing. my family is still there, we are hearing the propaganda and all of the media from all parts, the thing is as long as those leaders remains in their seats convincing that they are winning, they will not give anything in return. we only have two solutions, one end them all and bring new ones, which is currently impossible. the other thing, try to empower those who have different voice and different opinion, like what they call the silent majority, the people who want new leaders but don't have the ability to do this. the word now trying to focus on refugee since this kind of change will take a while since after this geneva, like the last
one, they actually -- there is nothing. if you -- if you see the news, it will be the same geneva conference that happened two or three years ago. the same statements and same requests, everything. answering your first question, i believe the answer would be sunni muslims, it's very unfortunate but it's a fact that the neighborhoods that are occupied by muslims are targeted the most. and it's -- it's a proportional question because also the sunni muslims are the majority but at the same time, as a fact, i believe that they most of the refugees. >> i would like to add that syrians, christians are just 5%. if we see the majority are muslim.
it's not like something oh, wow, as i said, we used to live together as a one blood -- and used to share christmas, ra ma dan and now we even share water and food. my mom tells me always that in my building we have muslim neighbors and they share food like brothers, like sisters. we have no differences and i hope we will always adds vocater this. >> which groups in syria were bear the brunt of the conflict so -- >> >> so practically everyone on the panel mentioned budget constraints, unhcr don't have enough money, students don't have enough money to attend universities and schools are
expensive. the united states in 2014 gave $5.9 billion to humanitarian assistance but 619 for its military spending. drones alone, $4.9 billion. isn't there somewhat of a discrepancy, at least unanimous erically between the priorities openly said. it's different to reroute money like that but i think that terms of extreme percentage difference is kinds of unacceptable. [ applause ] >> good comment. i think we'll take this as a statement. >> miss? >> i'm asking this question mainly to the syrians in the panel and without getting too hypothetical but just to frame for context i'm writing an
academic paper currently. it's the idea behind my question. i definitely agree with the questions and comments about most of americans in particular really not understanding who syrian refugee is. i've been trying to consider how do we actually change that at large, one on one it's not going to happen fast enough and be prevalent enough. one of the things i get pushback from from american counterparts is don't you think it's invasive to say to syrian refugees, tell us your story and let us publicize it and tell the world more about you? my question is, having this opportunity, do you feel that it would be invasive not just for you but if more people, more syrian refugees were asked if more real personal narratives were published, would you feel that that's invasive? would you feel that's infringing
on your privacy? >> well, in terms of what we can do, there are many things we can do. the media is one thing. what we're doing right now is one thing. talks are very powerful tool like inform to -- high to raise awareness. but answering your question, i don't think. i think not at all. as i mentioned, i feel i have the responsibility to share -- although i count myself as one of the luckiest to share what's happening in the country to let people know the pain that my people are having on a daily basis. so i -- and the one other factors that plays in this, we as syrians do not usually get to give our opinion or to speak. we're not used to it. so when we're asked, we -- i believe that most of the refugees regardless of how painful their journey -- their
journeys were, but they are -- they would love to share it and they will not feel like offended or anything by sharing what happened with them because they want the people to know what their people are facing. still facing on a daily basis. this is very subjective question, like every person might have a different opinion but from my work with refugees and my work with many other syrians, this would be my -- >> can i add something? one more thing? as i said in the beginning, i'm technically not not a refugee. i came in a different process and system. but i'm trying to use my ability to convey the ideas through my journalistic background and professional as interpreter so i have a good comment of english to try to speak on behalf of those who has the same story but they are not able to deliver that. i think when they e-mailed me asking me to be here and i think
they have the same opinion, we accept immediately. it's not intrusive when somebody asks you to step -- to step ahead and tell your story. it will be intrusive if they do that without your permission. so i think it will not be intrusive. you can ask people and they said that if felt it's not okay they will tell you. but i think we are here, refugees are here but they have families and friends and relatives. so they are -- they will speak on their behalf. we have our story and they have their stories and you'll hear 100,000 different stories because every one of us has his own story. i don't think it will be intrusive. >> just a quickie, world refugee day is the 20th of june. the theme for that because of the -- that's why i was looking at my phone, #with refugees and it's the telling of the story. there's nothing like meeting,
being with a refugee opposed to watching video or reading the story. nevertheless it's the personalizing and 60 million and all of these numbers that are relevant and shocking and of themselves don't yet bring home the personal stories and tragedies of the refugee story. >> israeli long time ago said 10,000 death with the statistics and one death was a tragedy. and we're still there. you have to show that the numbers we manage for policy purpose are not convincing anyone. they are terrifying people. the moments you bring personal histories a very difficult argument with someone on the hill was completely against resettlement, et cetera. he had the muslim assistance and said i don't want arabs but mohammed is okay because he knew no ham he had. you demisty fi by knowing what's happening. i think we have to stop there. i want to thank our panelists
for this very firm discussion and sharing stories that are difficult to share. i appreciate you coming under the lights to do that with us tonight. [ applause ] >> the last word is to ahmed. >> you can go first. >> i want to add one last thing, we came from a country where our government and leader tell us what to do and all we have to do as people is to listen. here in the u.s. i learned a different thing. i learned that the voice of people are heard. so i don't want channels because i'm still new in here but you can do that. you can vote for us. you can say our stories and you can say your impression about the syrian refugee. we're not angels, we're like 24 million syrians but at least we gave you some example about what syrians might be. so you can call your political
channels and representative and friends. i don't know what will be the process but you can help us and help the syrians who are trapped there. they are hoping to have a better future away from violence. >> thanks. [ applause ] >> recently our campaign 2016 bus made a visit to pennsylvania during the primary. stopping at grove city college, slippery rock, university, washington and jefferson college and harrisburg area community college. they learned about our road to the white house coverage and online interactive resources covering the campaign trail. visitors were also able to share thoughts with us about the upcoming election. our bus ended in warring ton, pennsylvania where it visited ninth graders in the student cam competition. thanks for their help in
communicate coordinating these visits. you can visit studentcam.org. >> tonight on the communicators, michael o'reilly on several key issues facing the fcc like net neutrality and set top boxes and comments on the political divide within the fcc and joined by howard buskirk, senior editor. >> the direction from fcc leadership including the chairman to take the most aggressive leftist approach to policy making, when that becomes the first primary goal of the item when the policy -- direction they want to go becomes the first goal rather than any consideration of any cleejalty or any attempt to bring or develop consensus. you wind up with the scenario we have today. when there's little interest of bringing my opinions on board, you're going to find i'm less
likely to be supportive and express my views. >> watch "the communicators" tonight on c-span2. >> later today a look at the rise of terrorism in europe and why certain groups are being blamed for promoting a has haddi jihadist in the region. 12:30 p.m. on c-span. >> how has the federal reserve changed since 1913? we'll have a conversation about the evolution of the fed and its current role. live coverage at 5:30 on c-span. >> now officials from south korea and japan and state department talk about human rights abuses in morning korea. we'll also hear from a north korean refugee and the son of a woman abducted in japan. this is 1:40.