Syrian refugees in Jordan, Mr and Mrs. Rastanawi were shocked to learn in March of this year that they were being admitted to the United States as refugees, and their spring arrival in Indianapolis was akin to winning the lottery. The country used to allow thousands of Syrians to immigrate, but the flow of Syrian refugees is at an almost complete stop.
Mrs. Rastanawi was riding a bus to pick up diabetes medication in March when she got the phone call telling her that she and her husband were eligible to come to the United States. The couple had to go to a hospital the next morning for a medical exam, pack their bags, pick up medication and get ready for a new life. The couple arrived at the Indianapolis airport on March 23. They are now living in Indianapolis, where their daughter lives with her family.
But the number of Syrian refugees allowed into the United States in fiscal 2016 was 12,587. In fiscal 2018, the United States admitted 62.
“Syrian refugees are the largest population of refugees seeking resettlement,” said Nazanin Ash, vice president of policy and advocacy for the International Rescue Committee. “Their vulnerability is increasing while U.S. policy is reducing admissions.”
The sharp decline in refugees has led some resettlement agencies to dismantle the infrastructure that has helped place those seeking assistance within the United States and leaving struggling U.S. towns short of workers they are eager to welcome. The nine organizations that resettle refugees in the United States have all had to lay off staff or close offices, sometimes both.
In 2016, Exodus Refugee Immigration in Indianapolis resettled refugees from 13 countries, including Syria, Iraq and Sudan. Last year, Exodus placed refugees from Afghanistan, Myanmar, Congo and Eritrea, said Cole Varga, the group’s executive director. The drop in refugees means the group’s funding has been cut almost in half, and the group laid off or did not backfill more than a dozen positions.
“One of the most striking things, I think, is just how much disruption this has caused to the network,” Varga said. “The top level is all the missing refugees who are not in the U.S., but it’s also about how [the president] is dismantling the infrastructure of this program.”
From the Washington Post