Long Resettlement Process Awaits Syrian Refugees

Sep 10, 2013

The United Nations announced the first step towards resettling the victims of the conflict in Syria to other countries. More than 2 million Syrians were forced to leave their homes since 2011, according to the UN.

Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
Credit Voice of America / Wikimedia Commons

About 97 percent of those 2 million will be displaced to neighboring countries like Jordan and Lebanon, but the other 3 percent of Syrian refugees could end up cities like Jacksonville.  

Last year, more than 600 refugees from many countries resettled in Jacksonville, according to U.S. State Department statistics.

There are several reasons why so many refugees come to Jacksonville versus other American cities.

“Basically it’s based on employment statistics,” said Elaine Carson, director of World Relief Jacksonville, a faith based agency that resettles refugees from over 40 different countries.

“The cost of living is reasonable in Jacksonville, the weather is great, and there are jobs,” Carson said.

World Relief Jacksonville's Elaine Carson.
Credit World Relief Jacksonville

Even though the conditions are right, Carson said it takes a long time before any Syrian refugees can walk through the gates of Jacksonville International Airport.

“It’s a long process to become a refugee to Jacksonville or to the United States,” she said.

Syrians must be interviewed by the UN.  If the UN believes a person qualifies for refugee status, a refugee card will be issued.

Living in a war torn country doesn’t automatically qualify a person for refugee status. Living in a particular area, being on a certain political or religious side can make a person a bigger target for violence or persecution.  

Even when the UN decides a person qualifies for refugee status, the US government still conducts its own interviews and security checks to decide if the person qualifies.  

It’s a slow process. Since the fall of 2011, only 64 Syrian refugees resettled in the United States.

According to the State Department, the United States will not see an influx in refugee arrivals until mid-2014.