Eye on the Refused — 7/9/2017: US Refugee Cap, Putin/Trump Syria Ceasefire, Syrian Family in Need (New Haven, CT)

Flickr/Bengin Ahmad

US Refugee News — US to Hit Refugee Cap, US Embassy to Greece “Camp to Campus” Program

The US is expected to hit the 50,000 refugee cap set by the Trump administration within a week. BuzzFeed reports that the US may stop issuing necessary travel documents to refugees when the 50,000 cap is met. A guidance letter obtained by BuzzFeed and issued by the Department of State warns that for a temporary period a needed travel document will not be issued to any refugees including those with a bona fide relationship to someone in the US. After this period, only refugees with a bona fide relationship with someone in the US will be admitted. It is still unclear whether a standing relationship with a resettlement organization will be considered “bona fide.” The worry is that this stipulation will keep some of the most vulnerable from safety. The 50,000 cap is also the lowest refugee admission rate set for a fiscal year that the US has seen in a decade and comes on the heels of the worst refugee crisis since World War II. The UN reports that 65.6 million people were displaced worldwide in 2016. Within that number, 22.5 million people were considered refugees at the end of 2016.

In what looks like positive news, the US Embassy to Greece is launching a “Camp to Campus” program, offering higher education scholarships to 100 refugees in Athens and 100 refugees in Thessaloniki. Courses will include English language programs, vocational training, and other topics of interest dependent on previous educational background. More information on the website.

US in Syria — Putin and Trump Negotiate Ceasefire, New Front May Complicate US Strategy in Syria

The US and Russia agreed to a ceasefire in southwest Syria, taking effect today. The two powers back opposite sides in the Syrian conflict. However, it remains to be seen how the ceasefire will be policed and if it will hold. For the details on who will police the ceasefire and which governments will participate, click here.

Reuters reported that Syrian rebel forces may join a Turkish assault on Kurdish forces in Syria. This could add another war within a war to the already convoluted crisis in Syria. The potential conflict would also complicate matters for the US as two US allies would be fighting each other (Turkey is a NATO member, YPG Kurdish forces are taking the Syrian city of Raqqa with US support). It was reported that the US mediated talks between rebel forces and the YPG. But these talks failed.

Important Refugee News From Abroad — Refugee Deaths by Sea on the Rise in 2017

A new Amnesty International report revealed that the death rate in the mediterranean is on the rise.

Quotes from Amnesty International’s Europe Director:

“European states have progressively turned their backs on a search-and-rescue strategy that was reducing mortality at sea in favour of one that has seen thousands drown and left desperate women, men and children trapped in Libya, exposed to horrific abuses.”
“If the second half of this year continues as the first and urgent action is not taken, 2017 looks set to become the deadliest year for the deadliest migration route in the world.”

These deaths by sea crossing are mainly attributed to gross negligence on the part of European governments. Read more here.

How to Help Refugees and Immigrants in the US — Airbnb, Volunteer at a Shelter, Family in New Haven, CT Needs Help

Have a spare bedroom? You can sign up to provide free accommodation to refugees through Airbnb’s program. The company is working in partnership with agencies that provide shelter to those in need. It’s a wonderful opportunity to not only help someone out, but to come in contact with a new culture.

If you are based in New York City, you can volunteer at RDJ Refugee Shelter. It is the only shelter in New York City specifically for homeless asylum seekers and refugees. Volunteering involves sleeping over at the Harlem-based shelter, opening the shelter, and locking the shelter. The shelter is especially in need of volunteers who can sleep overnight on Tuesdays and Sundays.

Open Homes, Open Hearts US put out a call to action. A Syrian family of five needs housing in New Haven, CT. Because of medical concerns, they need to be stationed near Yale Hospital. Read the Facebook post here. Any leads are helpful.

Refugee and Immigrant Solidarity Events — MET Celebrates Islamic Art, Google Launches Syria Q&A

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is hosting a summer schedule of informal chats celebrating Islamic Art. The talks are free with museum admission and will be held on Friday afternoons from now till the end of August.

In partnership with UNHCR, Google launched “Searching for Syria,” which answers the most searched questions about Syria. For example, “What was Syria like before the war?” It’s not a formal event, but it does allow you to spend a few moments educating yourself from the comfort of your bedroom.

My Personal Point of Positivity — Instagram?

Please ignore the fact that I essentially named this section “The Three P’s” and enjoy this final, personal, positive point! : )

Today’s personal point of positivity comes courtesy of Instagram. Shot Did Not End is an Instagram account that posts gorgeous photos of Damascus, Syria. Every time I look at these photos, I get happy. I understand that Damascus has been relatively out of harms way compared to other Syrian cities (Please note the word relatively. There have been recent attacks in and around Damascus). But, this Instagram account reminds me that even amidst extreme terror, you cannot steal the historical lineage of true beauty and enduring pride that exists in Syria. It’s alive in these photos. And it’s alive in the breast and eyes of every Syrian I’ve ever met.

Keep hoping.

Yours in solidarity,