The Paris terrorist attacks of November 2015 made many Americans fearful and have raised concerns about bringing refugees to the United States.
We know that refugees served by Lutheran Services Carolinas come to the U.S. seeking safe haven from violence and to ensure that their children have a better future.
Because of our work with refugees, we believe that the U.S. can continue to both welcome them and ensure U.S. security.
- Screening of all refugees starts by the country of first asylum, that is, the country which first shelters the refugee. Ninety-nine percent of refugees are resettled in that country or return to their homelands.
- Only about one percent of all refugees become eligible for resettlement in a third country. If they cannot return to their homeland or settle permanently in the country of first asylum, then resettlement becomes an option.
- Refugees are not necessarily hoping to enter the U.S. They are looking for safety and protection. Refugees do not get to choose the country where they will be resettled. Right now, the following countries have resettlement programs: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States. (Immigrants, on the other hand, are those who hope to immigrate to a specific county, which may or may not be the U.S.)
- Continued screening of refugees is done by the U.S. State Department and the Department of Defense. Prior to admission to the U.S., all refugees undergo an extensive and detailed security process. Refugees are the most scrutinized individuals allowed to enter the United States. There is a multi-layered series of security checks that includes biometrics (identification through physical characteristics like fingerprints), medical screenings, interagency intelligence sharing, and in-person interviews with Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials. The screenings and interviews are conducted by well-trained and experienced officers.
- Of those who successfully pass the screening process, the U.S. handpicks those it will approve for resettlement.
- Refugees can wait two, four, oras much as ten years before they are resettled in the U.S. or other countries.
Syrian refugees and the U.S.
Syrian refugees are fleeing the same kind of terror that occurred in Paris. They do not bring terror with them; they are fleeing from it.
- Many Syrian refugees have already successfully resettled in the U.S. and are already making strides to be fully integrated into their local communities.
- More than 50% of the entire population of Syria has been displaced from their homes – by bombardment, civil war, and the growing threat of ISIS.
- There are 4,185,302 registered Syrian refugees in countries neighboring Syria, including Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, and in several countries in North Africa.
- 76% of these refugees are women and children – nearly all are widows and orphans who have lost everything.
- Only two percent of all Syrian refugees are males of military age.
- Syrians now face increasing challenges to find safety and protection in countries that have been overwhelmed by refugee numbers. Those countries are introducing complex requirements for refugees to be able to stay.
- Most refugees live in sub-standard shelters and have faced harsh winters in exile.
- The majority of refugees in Jordan and Lebanon lack the financial resources to attempt travel to Europe. Some refugees, who have grown desperate, have attempted travel to Europe. More than 2,500 refugees have died in the Mediterranean this year attempting the journey.
The principle of protecting refugees is a core part of the identify of the U.S. as a nation committed to freedom. Since 1968, the U.S. has recognized its international responsibility to ensure that asylum seekers and refugees are protected and not returned to face persecution or torture in their countries of origin.
The U.S. resettled hundreds of thousands of refugees displaced by World War II and after the end of the wars in Southeast Asia, the United States resettled 111,000 Vietnamese refugees in 1979 and then essentially doubled that number to 207,000 in 1980.
Lutheran Services Carolinas is called to help those in need and to welcome the stranger. Its partner agency, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, was founded more than 75 years ago to protect and provide safety and welcome to Lutheran refugees fleeing World War II.
LSC and LIRS will continue to work diligently with government, service partners, the ELCA, the LCMS, and Lutheran congregations to ensure that refugees receive the welcome and support they need as they rebuild their lives.
Refugees that arrive in the U.S. are of many faiths. Most certainly, not all refugees are Muslim. However, because of the abundance of misinformation about refugees and Islam, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is offering a new free resource called, “My Neighbor is a Muslim.” This is a seven-part study guide for use by congregations or other discussion groups. It is designed to open up a much-needed dialogue and build understanding about Islam.
This resource was developed by Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota and written by professors at Luther Collge and Luther Seminary for use in Minnesota. LIRS is launching a national version of the resource for wider use, with the hope that people will not only learn but take the next step and actually meet their Muslim neighbors and begin to form meaningful relationships.
You can download "My Neighbor Is Muslim" or order free hard copies here.
Learn more at www.lirs.org.
Sources: Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants