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End of ‘American Dream’ for Muslim Syrian refugees

Thousands of Jordan-hosted Syrians lose chances of resettlement in US after ban

By Mohammad Ghazal , Khetam Malkawi - Jan 29,2017 - Last updated at Jan 29,2017

AMMAN — For Mustafa and his family, who are Syrian refugees in Jordan, a better life in the United States seemed within reach. 

He was contacted by the US-established temporary offsite processing centre in July 2016, and he and his family underwent several interviews to determine their eligibility for resettlement in the US. 

They were subsequently told that they qualified and that they were in line to be resettled in the US sometime in 2017.

On Sunday, however, their dreams of a good life in the US were shattered, perhaps irreparably, by the new US administration. 

Mustafa said he was "shocked and deeply saddened" by US President Donald Trump's executive order, which bans the entry of Syrian refugees and stops the admission of all refugees to the United States for four months.

"I hereby proclaim that the entry of nationals of Syria as refugees is detrimental to the interests of the United States and thus suspend any such entry," Trump declared in his Friday's executive order. The executive order bars all nationals from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen from entering the US.

Mustafa, who preferred to be called Abu Mohammad, fled with his family of six to Jordan from Syria’s Homs in 2012, seeking a safe haven amidst intensified fighting between Syrian regime forces and rebel groups.

“My family and I had high hopes of a better life in the US…We were actually very enthusiastic when we were contacted by the Resettlement Support Centre for the Middle East and North Africa (RSC MENA) and started the process and were informed that we qualified,” Abu Mohammad said.

“But after Trump’s decision we feel betrayed and isolated,” he added. 

“Many of my friends and relatives have already been resettled in the US and other countries such as Canada…I think that Trump’s decision is racist and we did not expect it,” Abu Mohammad, who works in household maintenance, said Sunday.

Last September, former US president Barack Obama issued a directive ordering the admission of 10,000 Syrian refugees to the US by September 30, 2016.

Abu Mohammad said he read in several media outlets about the suspension of the entry of Syrian refugees to the US and said it was “frustrating”.

“I feel that Syrians are being targeted. What did we do? We fled our homes and everything we had back home seeking a better future. The US has been always a key defender of human rights and stood with the vulnerable, but why the discrimination?” he said. 

“Why are Muslim Syrians banned, while Christian Syrians are not? This is a religious decision I think,” Abu Mohammad said.

Another Syrian refugee, who preferred to be called Abu Rami, said he has also been interviewed by the RSC MENA, which is operated by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and funded by the US State Department .

“My family and I went for several interviews in 2016 and we were told that we had been shortlisted… this decision is killing our hopes… we’ve already given up hope of going back home,” he said.

“This is not the America we have always been hearing about,” Abu Rami said.

According to RSC MENA’s facts concerning the project of processing Syrian cases for resettlement in 11 countries throughout the region, the majority of the process is taking place in Jordan, Iraq, Egypt and the UAE. 

As of January 26, 2017, 11,822 Syrians have submitted applications to the United States Refugee Admission Programme from the MENA region, with RSC MENA processing 67 per cent of the applications of Syrians already resettled in the US.

In documents seen by The Jordan Times, there are 11,289 Syrians pending IOM prescreening, 10,192 Syrians pending United States Citizenship and Immigration Services interview and 6,114 Syrians pending travel.

In terms of breakdown of Syrian applicants to the programme by age, 56 per cent are aged below18 years and 43 per cent are aged between 18-65 years.

In terms of breakdown by country of asylum, 79 per cent are seeking asylum from Jordan and 13 per cent from Egypt.



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