tv [untitled] May 18, 2016 7:01pm-8:00pm EDT
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. and it was such a -- was -- an authentic place. >> the most beautiful place. >> beautiful place. forget the food. but 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 simply impossible for refugees living in jordan, lebanon and turkey, notwithstanding the policies of the governments to allow them access. what's happened since is another story. i don't want to see the zero on the sheet of paper saying i'm out of time.
what i'd like to highlight, nevertheless, is perhaps the fact that many of you here don't know, and that is when we see the pictures of refugees in camps, from zatri camp in particular, or asra camp in jordan, that's where the journalists and the congressional delegations, that's where visitors are able to go fairly safely, but 60% of the refugees globally and 90% of syrian refugees are, in fact, living outside of camps. they're living in cities and towns or in shelters or in renovated apartments or in just shelters, and the new development over the last several months is that, again, after considerable encouragement and advocacy, there's a shift in the recognition that something has to be done to support the host communities in order
that -- 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. so we're hopeful. again, here, the united states has been very 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 simply say is that it's very important that as many refugees as possible are given the opportunity to move legally. we've heard a lot about irregular movements. when we were talking about last year, resettlement to the united states, there weren't pictures of asylum officers interviewing individually a refugee for a
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. no. on cnn and elsewhere, we saw pictures of masses of people going through the fields of croatia and macedonia and serbia as if that is resettlement, and it's simply not the case as i'm sure simon will elaborate. so it's very important we promote resettlement, we promote other legal avenues whether it's through scholarship programs or labor migration to brazil and elsewhere to allow as many people -- they'll still be the minority -- but to allow as many people as possible to find safety, to build a future for their kids because that's the kind of international solidarity that will encourage jordan and lebanon and turkey, iraq, and egypt to do as much as they've done to continue to do more because war is still going on and the refugee situation, the refugee crisis will regrettably
persist for years to come in one form or another. so with that, i want to acknowledge the great support that we've 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 a peaceful resolution to this terrible war. thank you. [ applause ] >> thank you very much, shelly. i must say, 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 recently tried to host a special meeting on resettlement and where european countries were really noncommittal despite the fact they want people to stay outside their borders so as they don't come legally -- illegally. i think we can discuss that in
the panel. thanks for your 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, one of the most engaged governments. my sense is sometimes, yes, we're the leader but turn behind, say where is the pack? a 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, michel. thank you all for being here today. it's a 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. it's -- i represent the humanitarian arm of the state department, and one of the difficulties of working in humanitarian work is that we don't actually solve the political crises 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's what will cause the most humanitarian good. the continuation of the current cessation of hostilities is all its faults is saving a lot of lives and 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're hoping that the international community is able to put more pressure on the syrian government, particularly the russians and the iranians, to allow these shipments in because as of up until now, their record has been really, really poor. united states is the largest contributor to humanitarian needs around the world.
it's about $6 billion a year. that's real money. prm, its budget is half of that. the other half is controlled by office of foreign disaster assistance. they are close partners. but we work in different ways. prm works closely with international organizations. our chief partner is unhcr. we're the largest funder of unhcr. the international committee of the red cross. iom, the international organization of migration. unra, the palestinian refugee organization. and we work with many other organizations and also with ngos. about 9% of our funding goes through ngos. but we're 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 in the recent years. we'd like to see them do more. but we use our diplomacy not just to look for more money but also 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 their borders open so that refugees can come in. but we also try and get them to change the ways that they treat refugees once they're 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, i mean, just lebanon, a quarter of its population right now is syrian refugees. can you imagine how we'd react if a quarter of our population were canadians, god forbid. perhaps not a great example. so it's tough to go into those governments and say thank you very much, you're doing a great job but you also need to let people work because if they work, they can support themselves. they reduce dependency on your social services. they'll have dignity and be able to afford to send their children to school. by the way, can you open up your schools for the children, too? you don't want to have hundreds of thousands of children here for four or five years who have no education. it's not going to be very good for you.
we'll help you pay for some of this. we'll contribute. the world will contribute, but you need to do a lot. it's a hard message to carry but it's one we are carrying. next fall for the first time since the crisis began every syrian child in jordan will be in school. so it's a big improvement. [ applause ] over half inside lebanon. there's more to do in lebanon and turkey is a really different and difficult place because of the 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? okay. very quickly. series of conferences over this year which will culminate with a president's summit on refugees. we're 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. but it's a small number. 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 indochina crisis as a solution. in the countries where they first fled. what we've done, we resettle 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's been a tough year because we've had a lot of political opposition, but we've also had a lot of grassroots support for our program and it hasn't stopped the growth at all. we did 70,000 the last 3 years. our plan is to do 85,000 this year and 100,000 next year. we'll bring in 10,000 syrians this year which i admit is too small a number. that number we plan to grow in the outgoing years. we hope it's a start to a really strong syrian resettlement program. thank you. [ applause ] >> thanks, simon, and thanks for reminding us humanitarian is not just for providing money but doing humanitarian diplomacy really to improve policies and
the way governors are prepared to respond in the region. i think that's very important. certainly i would gladly acknowledge that the u.s. has been also very much a leader in that field. now, everybody has been extre extremely constructive and extremely polite to each other and extremely thankful. i 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. and, yes, it's good to see that the world bank is coming in. it's good to see we talk about future legal pathways to come, et cetera. haven't we missed the boat? you know? is it -- 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 would you tell them, where did we miss the boat? what is it that you feel has
gone wrong the way the international community has responded? and we're between decent people. anything can be said very politely. i think i would like to generate some of the feelings you hear among syrian society when you speak between yourself, what would you like to tell us? mariela? >> courageous. >> i would like to say that we are desperate. we are in need of help and support. it would be great if you can kindly help us by opening the doors in front of syrian students at least like, as george said, we know a lot of people, they got full tuition scholarship, but they did not get the visa. so why? the simple answer that this is because we know you're from syria, you have war, certainly you are not going to go back home. so, i mean, of course we are not going to get a very amazing education here to go back and
die in syria, but at some point we will go back to try to build the country. my mom applied for the visa last week. she took a long way, 18 hours just on a bus trip with the dangers of the road and a lot of restriction by lebanese, of course, because they have quarter of the population, they are now syrians. they just allowed her for 48 hours. she went to the embassy. she has all the paper. i sent her all the supportive documents. they told her no. we know you are not going to go back, we can't give you visa. when am i going to be able to see my family? in heaven maybe? it's so -- so difficult for me. this is my third year. i'm unable to go to my city of aleppo and i'm hopeless to be able to see my mom. it's so -- it's breaking my heart deeply. >> should i answer? >> please.
>> try and take responsibility. it's cruel and really hard and i feel for you. i can't imagine what it would be like for me and my -- in the same position. i come from an immigrant family. and 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's so dramatically different. all i can say in your specific question, it's not a great answer, but i got 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 any change in that unless there's a change in the law. now, what we are doing in another area realizing that what
a horrible thing this is, is there are a lot of people who have immigrant visa, not visitor visa, but immigrant visa petitions like many syrians -- >> called expedited. >> yeah. they're unable to -- there's a waiting list. you have to wait so many years to get there. we're allowing anyone that has an immigrant visa petition waiting to join relatives in the states to apply now as a refugee. we're 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. >> okay. you know, you're a journalist here so you have to listen. the thing is, after five years, and it seems that our leaders, like from all parts, they screwed things up. they missed it. so what i want to say is instead of saying, like, the thing is maybe after the election we'll have different administration
and they will address that differently, but i want to focus on one thing. 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 on those great principles. those will be the new leaders that can end this conflict. otherwise we'll be trapped and kept with those leaders, instead of looking at the syrian benefits and syrian interests, they're taking care of themselves living in their hotels and palaces and all of this. why the u.s. government always are skeptical about syrians being here and stays here and does not want to go back? we had great country and we want -- we learned many things from the american values. the democracy. the tolerance. everything. why should increase this and have more syrian here, give them the opportunity to be the future leaders so they can go back and help in leading the community.
many people hate all parts. my family, they hate all parts. my friends, they hate the regimes, hate the opposition. they need a new voice. why the u.s. doesn't 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? >> i totally agree. >> yeah. you're asking the wrong person. i'm a humanitarian. i work on the refugee issue. you really need to ask political leaders why that is. i can tell you from my point of view that from a refugee point of view, there's been nothing crueller than sort of the focusing of legitimate fear on terrorism but the focusing of that on the refugee population is just horrific. you know, 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 have -- can i -- >> i just want to answer that briefly. >> i think what you say makes sense. i am witness to the efforts that prm has done on the hill to try to debunk this association between refugees and terrorists. i mean, prm has been a tremendous advocate in that fight. i hope that we will move where you want to be, but an election year is not the right time to push this issues. of course. >> 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. very interestingly, in the previous panel at georgetown, a
group of students came to see and say we want to try to build a movement that will pressure universities, private universities in the u.s. to offer grants. you know, so this is just a temporary stay, but it would achieve part of what you're saying which is train people who can be the future to their own country. so there is a movement amongst students which i think is extremely reassuring on some of the values that predominate in this country. i hope these will eventually see fruition. george and then -- george? >> my question is a bit lighter question, easier question to answer. >> a question for him. >> it's for you, actually. so i do understand the challenges that are implied by questions asked by ahmad and mariela. because there are a lot of factors that the u.s. government cannot control in those cases and there are laws that has been there for decades and it's
not -- it's not magic to change them. but my question is, why the asylum seekers who, there are 5,000 asylum seekers in the united states who are until now some people 3 years and 3 1/2 years did not get an interview. so here there's -- my question is, isn't it something that could easily -- like, or at least should easily from a theoretical standpoint be addressed in a faster way? those people who are here who are already here, who've been cleared, who got the visas, it's only about during this interview, this two hours' interview, making a decision, why are we 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 -- >> i know. >> -- asylum. i think the answer is that the department of homeland security has so many officers that can do the interviews and they're using them to sbrir refugees overseas, asylum cases here and cases coming across the southwest border with increased numbers and i don't think there are enough people to process the number that are coming in. now, the logical question after that is why don't they get more people? i don't -- >> i'm sorry. we're addressing you as the u.s. government. so i apologize. >> on the lunch break -- you can meet them. this is the opportunity for us. nothing personal. just like you are the only person we know here that can -- >> michel, you were saying that we failed and that we're trying
to be positive and optimistic and look forward. but that there has been a failure. i mean, it needed be said. the number of deaths, the prolonged conflict. not just in syria. around syria, in iraq, 3 million displaced persons. and now europe and the challenges there and the risks to international law and european law and what that means for asylum and the polarization of public opinion in europe, in the united states. i guess it's good because for every critical xenophobe there's somebody who's been positively engaged, but still, the public opinion has become very challenging and then it becomes personal. the first refugees resettled to kansas city. you know, it was almost -- when that happened, and there was a
family that was supposed to go to texas and they had to stop in new york and they weren't sure, are we going to be safe going to texas? that kind of situation was unheard of. i mean, we never had to deal with that. so, yes, there's been a failure. there's also been a fail wrure south sudan and central africa. all over. partly that's funding an inability to realize the plans that we've got for individual support, for community support, for sustained engagement at the humanitarian level. so, yeah, more could have been done. it crystalized -- it all crystalized raeecently, 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. and one of the motivations for that, as i mentioned, besides despair and the cutoff of food aid, one of the push factors, positive push factors, was we want to educate our kids because so many of them are being left behind in asylum. so now there is that positive spin. we can only hope that resources will go in. we know that the host countries are prepared to support it. as far as secondary and tertiary education and scholarship opportunities and the like, from the days that unhcr was helping south african refugee students in the '60s and '70s, that's always been a very high per capita investment. it makes a lot of sense. there are organizations, there
are philanthropists, there are states like the germans and the dafi scholarship program that really are working now and are getting better endowed. and we can only hope subject, of course, to visas, that we'll have more students coming to the united states and we know that universities and the students that are behind this -- these associations are really willing. i know that there's, you know, johns hopkins is prepared to take a student. so the one student hopefully will become 10, will become 20 and 30 and 50. the problem is in the meantime, people are dying, the war is continuing and the international community has failed. >> thanks, shelly. 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. the main anxiety for the families who could afford to move. those who have the means to move. many, many don't have that. one thing turkey is now considering, work visa -- work permits for a percent of the refugees. it's a very nice initiative at a time when there are lots of problems in turkey. i'm glad they're trying to push that and i hope it will give some results. thank you very much for this discussion. i think now we'll open the debate to questions from the audience. i have lights in my eyes. if you have a question, wave so i see. yes? >> hi. i was recently in europe a few months ago, and turkey as well, for that matter. i was speaking to a swedish
woman who around my age, so she was young. and the way she was talking about refugees was so kind of disgusting. and i felt like i couldn't really say anything because, you know, she's from a country where they took in lots of refugees and i'm an american and, you know, we have so much trouble just taking 10,000. and what really shocked me was that this is a 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 particular group of people as opposed to all the other issues she feels very strongly about. and it was, like, just 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 -- of the migrants who were coming in. so i just wanted to ask, how are
these migrants adjusting in countries like sweden and germany now? has it gotten better? has it gotten worse? >> okay. the short answer to your question is i'm not the expert on sort of the reception and integration process. i would, since we're in georgetown, i would refer everybody to the migration policy institute. there's one source, a very, very reliable and good comparative information about the resettlement and integration, to use that term, it's not perfect, experiences of refugees in the united states as well as in europe. the -- so i -- 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, i'm afraid that one of the things where there has been failure that i should have mentioned is in political leadership. and where angela merkel and to a solid extent 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 lead 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. and that's not good for us for syrians. i dare say for muslim refugees in general. and then if it's not good for syrians or muslim refugees, it's not good for any refugee. >> if i could 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 integration. we spread -- resettle refugees around 300 sites around the country. we as a public/private partnership, so we use ngos to resettle them, working with local community, charities and ngos. integrating them in society, finding jobs, 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. so it's worked really well for us. and one thing we find is that anybody that's met a refugee in
the states is positive toward the refugee experience. we don't meet many people -- i can't think of a single example like the swedish person you met. well, 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. >> yeah. there are exceptions. >> i wanted to have a question as a follow-up to that comment. i used to work for prm. i'm a former foreign service officer and have not experience but now live in the middle of the country in colorado. watching this discussion this year with the political climate that we have, it occurs to me perhaps there's been a failure of, i don't know, 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. because many people in the middle of the country think they're all the same.
and they think of mexicans crossing the border and syrian refugees as kind of all the same. and i think if people had a better understanding of what a refugee is, who they are, what they've gone through, perhaps the political dialogue would be more reasonable. i don't know who would be responsible for that, but i think it's a serious problem. >> well, if i may, just very quickly, couldn't agree with you more. after elan cordi 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. very shortly thereafter, of course, there was the paris bombing and the famous passport that was -- that threw the whole refugee narrative topsy-turvy.
coupled with san bernardino, that brought it home to the united states. it was impossible for us to counter, to clarify, to educate, 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 sad those stories, they still represented a massive threat and that was popularized in the media and in this, you know, electoral season. and it was conflated to 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. and we know about the immigration story of the united states and we know that there's a certain -- 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, what happens in europe is what happenedst in the u.s. the resettlement is where you select who comes. there's a vetting process. it's extremely organized. it 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 they want to 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 i think had the right elements.
you know, keep them in greece. process them. those who are refugees, let's relocate them by having a burden-sharing agreement between the 28 members and those who don't qualify as refugees because surely it was not syrians coming, lots of other groups. 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. and not offering legal pathway. that's why i tend to be a little bit more pessimistic right now because i think 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. >> sir? >> hello. i am from syria. i am a newcomer here in america. two weeks ago. i am married before seven years, okay, from america. okay. after six years, i have a visa. okay. i give $2,000 about this visa, takes for doctor, for street, okay. i'm a refugee before three years. i work with ngos. a lot of time with unhcr, with irc, okay, and my wife, my wife from america, from chicago i want ask think, what future for
unhcr or ngos. i am sorry. i don't -- my english is not good, okay, but not bad. >> don't worry. >> i hope you understand me, okay? before the situation, i am arabic teacher, okay? i have 400 student refugee -- student -- 150 from america. okay. i have a little student. and, but if i want ask what the future after the refugee in america, okay, not important, now i am here. okay. my goal, i am coming to america, but after america, okay, i don't have any opinion about life here. okay. after two weeks, i am closing my eyes, what i want here, okay. 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? okay. this what's problem for syrian. syrian refugee not search about immigration, not search about money, not search about anything. just want peace. 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, you know, they have to learn how to access school for their children, health care, et cetera. it's complicated, but in general, refugees who settle here do very well. because they have these will to recover the time they have lost, you know, during the conflict.
so i would not despair, you know. and maybe one day some refugees after many years as a refugee decide to go back to their home if the conditions back home allow that. so i don't think have to -- coming here is necessarily permanent, but i am positive about the way this country allows resettled refugees to start a new life, you know. hard work, no doubt about it. but it works. i've seen refugees from somalia and the congo, nepal, burma, from really different countries really getting their way here. refugees from iraq a few years ago who came after the iraq invasion. so 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 newcomers to integrate. so i certainly never had a problem in integrating and
meeting new people and talking to americans or anything like that. so -- so i don't know if i understood your question very well, but if i did, then i think that the u.s. as a culture would be very helpful for you to integrate, but then if your question is what would happen next? what would happen when 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. >> one of the things that i've noticed is much more engagement by the syrian-american community and a broadly divined syrian-american community since many syrians -- many lebanesers have syrian descent. so the arab-american community in the arab-american institute,
the syrian-american medical association, a number of organizations are engaged not just in providing money but they're becoming more -- >> society. >> -- you know, engaged with nongovernmental organizations to help syrians coming and they're advocating but they're also doing. and i think that's a very positive reflection of the diaspora becoming supporter of new arrivals. >> one of the reasons -- please, go ahead. >> please, go ahead. >> one of the reasons we have this public/private partnership is at least when refugees are resettled through our program, which are most refugees, they're assigned an organization which helps them get settled and sort of watches over them while they're first there and then connects them with other people from their -- 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.
and same with the schools. the local ngos who we work with 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 off by themselves and tell them to make do. >> i think there is an organization in chicago called syrian community network run by susan aras. they support a lot of syrian refugees and they have a lot of families who came as refugees from syria. i think it's going to be great if you would like to be in touch with them. they are really helpful. >> hi.
good afternoon. so i have a couple questions. the first one's kind of short. i'm curious about where in syria most of the refugees are coming from. i hear a lot about the political division within syria, alowites, christians, muslims -- sorry, sunnis. are, like, 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 then the second question which is more challenging i think, do you think it's easier to get a political solution to solve the refugee crisis or to solve the actual syrian conflict? do you think that it'd be easier to get the eu, russia, the u.s. to agree to a solution that would help quell the conflict in
syria or that would make it easier for us to bring our refugees here? >> can i? >> yes. >> i would like to take the second one. since i'm reading everything, in short, in syria, everybody is convinced that is winning. so in negotiation, they don't tend to offer any compensation or, like, compromising anything. so in any conference, like just the last one, geneva 65, i don't know what the number is, they met, they agreed on nothing because everybody comes with very, you know, high demands asking for impossible from the other part. the thing is, and i have to admit that as syrians, because we were, like, under one regime and under one party, we don't know how to negotiate. so we usually come, like, 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. forcing the others like -- my family's still there so they are, you know, hearing the propaganda and all 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. so we have only two solutions. one, end them all and bring new ones which is, like, currently impossible. the other thing, try to empower those who have, like, different voice and different opinion, like what they call the silent majority. the people who wants new leaders but they 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. >> and answering your first question, i believe the answer would be sunni muslims. it's very unfortunate, but it's, i believe, it's a fact that the neighborhoods that are occupied by sunni muslims are targeted the most. and 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 are most of the refugees. >> i would like to add that syrians, christians are just 5%. so, i mean, ifby we see the majority are muslims so it's not like something, oh, wow. but as i said, we used to live together as a one blood. we used to share our town,
christmas, ramadan, now we even share water and food. my mom tells me always that in my building we have muslim neighbors, they share food like. we have no differences and i hope we will always advocate for this. >> which groups in syria will bear the brunt of the conflict? [ inaudible ]. >> yes, go ahead. >> so, practically everyone on the panel mentioned budget constraints an the c.r. doesn't have enough money and the students don't have enough money to attend the university and not enough money for public education programs, schools are expensive. the united states in 2014 gave $5.9 billion to humanitarian assistance but 619 for its
military spending. drones alone are allocated $4.9 billion. now isn't there somewhat of a discrepancy, at least numerically, between the priorities that are openly said -- and i know politically it is different to just reroute money like that, but i think that in terms of extreme percentage difference is kind of unacceptable. >> that was a comment. [ applause ] >> i think we'll take this as a statement. >> yes. >> i'm asking this question mainly to the syrians on the panel and without getting too hypothetical but just to frame for context, i'm writing an academic paper currently so it is the idea behind my question. i definitely agree with some of the questions and comments about
most of americans in particular really not understanding who syrian refugee is and so 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 not going to be prevalent enough. and one of the things that i get push-back from american counterparts is don't you think it is invasive to say two syrian refugees, tell us your story and let us publicize it and tell the world more about you. and my question is, having this opportunity, do you feel it would be invasive not just for you but if more syrian refugees were asked, if more real personal narratives were published, would you feel that that is invasive, would you feel that that is infringing on your privacy? >> well, so in terms of what we can do, there are many things we can do.
of course the media is one thing. what we are doing right now is one thing. and [ inaudible ] are also a powerful tool, like in terms of how to raise awareness. but in answering your question, i don't think -- i think not at all. as i mentioned, at the beginning, i feel that i have a responsibility to share -- although i count myself as one of the luckiest to share what is happening in my country to let the people know the pain my people are having on a daily basis. so i -- and the one other factor that plays in this is that we as syrians do not usually get to give our opinion or to speak. we're just not used to it. so when we are askied, i believ most of the refugees, regardless of how painful their journey -- their journeys were, but they are -- they would love to share it and they would not feel offended or anything by sharing
what happened with them because they want the people to know what their people are facing. and are still facing on a daily basis. this is a very subjective question. every person might have a different opinion. but from my work with the refugees and my work with many other syrians, this would be my answer. >> could i add something. just one more thing. as i said in the beginning, i'm technically not a refugee because i came through a different process and different system, but i'm trying to use my ability to convey through my journalistic background and my interpreter to try to speak on behalf of those would have the same story, but they are not able to deliver that. i think when they offered me -- when i -- e-mailed me to ask me to be here and i think mario and george said the same thing, it is not intrusive to step ahead and tell your story.
it is intrusive if they do that without your permission. so i think it would not be intrusive. you could ask people and if they feel that it is not okay, they will tell you. but i think we are here, refugees are here but they have families, friends, 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 store yours because everybody has their own story. so i don't think it will be intrusive. >> and just a quick kwi. world refugee day is the 20th of june and the theme for that, because of -- i was looking at my phone is hashtag with refugees and it is precisely the telling of the refugees story. there is nothing like meeting and being with a refugee as opposed to watching the video or reading the story. but nevertheless, it is personalizing the 60 million and
all of the numbers that are relevant and shocking and in and of themselves don't yet bring home the personal stories and tragedies of the refugee story. >> the israeli -- a long time ago said 10,000 was a statistic and one death is a tragedy and we are still there. you have to show the numbers that we manage for poll purposes are not convincing anyone, they are terrifying people. the moment you bring personal histories and lives, i have a very difficult argument with someone on the hill who was completely against resettlement, et cetera. and he had a muslim assistant and he said he don't want arabs, but muhammed is okay. because he knew. so you demystify because you know what is happening. so i think we'll have to stop there. and i really want to thank our panelists for this very, very firm discussion and for sharing stories that are difficult to share. so i really appreciate you coming under lights to do that with us tonight.
[ applause ] >> and the last word is to ahmad. >> you can go ahead. >> i want to adjust one last thing. we came from a county where our government and leader tells us what to do. and all we have to do as people is to listen. here in the u.s., i learn different thing. i learned that the voice of people are heard. so i don't know what channels because i'm still new 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 refugees. we are not angels. we are like 24 million syrians but at least we gave you some examples of what students might be. so you could call your political representatives and i don't know the process, but you could help
us and the syrians that are t p trapped there and they are hoping to have a better future away from violence. >> thank you. [ applause ] >> i'm sure our panelists will be -- book tv has 48 hours of nonfiction books and authors every weekend. and here are some of the programs to watch for. this morning, at 10:00, we're live for the gaithersberg book festival. authors include a.j. deon, why the right went wrong, conservative from the goldwater to the tea party and beyond. and aneat gordon reed and thomas jefferson and the empire of imagine. juan williams with his book we the people. the modern day figures who have reshaped and affirmed the founding father's vision of america. james risen on his book pay any price. greed, power and endless war. kristin green in her book something must be done about prince edward county. a family, a virginia town, a
civil rights battle. joann bamberger with her book, love her, love her not, the hillary paradox. john dorrics on mary mcmurray and marlene tressman talking about her book fair labor lawyer, the remarkable life of supreme court advocate bessy margo lynn on sunday night at 9:00 on afterwards. >> for me, the worst thing i've ever done was committed an act of murder in 1991. i shot and tragically caused a man's death and is by far one of the worst things you could do. and i made that unfortunately decision at the age of 19 and devastated a family, took somebody's husband, son, brother, father, from a family. and it is one of the things that stays with me to this day. and it is largely the reason that i do some of the work tha