Twenty students attended the Syrian Refugees in Southeast Michigan lecture on Tuesday in the Student Center. The event was hosted by Students Organize for Syria.
The event featured guest speaker Zeina Hamade who is the community outreach coordinator at the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) in Detroit. She helps support and bring awareness through events like this one.
She gave background information on how the USCRI serves refugees and immigrants, and she went on to talk about how it plans to serve the expected influx of Syrian refugees.
The USCRI is a resettlement agency immigrants and refugees go through as they are adjusting to their new life in the U.S. The USCRI’s main programs focus on reception and placement, employment and preventative health.
They have partnerships with employers who want to hire the refugees.
“[The Syrians] come to the U.S. with a willingness to work and with an entrepreneurial spirit,” Hamade said. “The first thing they ask is when they’re going to be able to work.”
The USCRI also helps the refugees integrate into U.S. culture.
“We expect Syrians to have a harder time than Iraqi refugees,” Hamade said.
She was optimistic, however, that through the USCRI’s connections and partners, the Syrian refugees would still be able to integrate.
Amer Ghali, founder and vice president of Students Organize for Syria, has visited Syria.
“My own friends and places and people I’ve seen — obviously, the war has directly affected them,” Ghali said.
Ghali identifies as Muslim and said a component of his faith commands him to help those in need.
“Assuming I was neither Muslim, nor was I a Syrian,” he said, “I feel as though, as a human, it’s my ethical responsibility to extend my hand to my brother and sister in humanity and to ensure they are accommodated for when they reach the United States.”
Up until now, most of the refugees who went through the USCRI were Iraqi. Currently, there are 179 Syrian refugees in Michigan, 16 of those reside in Washtenaw County. Hamade said the decision to allow 10,000 Syrian refugees come to the U.S. is expected to greatly increase this number in the next few months to include more Syrians.
“I think this issue is very important because of how involved the U.S. is in the Middle East and the effects they have on a daily basis, so we get to have more of a say so in the role we have,” Hana Kamel, third year anthropology major, said. “The world’s happenings are happening a lot closer to home than you would think, especially when you’re just watching everything on a T.V. screen. You have this chance and opportunity to see it up close and personal and participate in it if you care to.”
“It’s really nice to see campus getting involved in more global issues, and I think it’s really important to make [the issues] less global and more localized,” Katy Davis, a senior speech language pathology major said.