Toward Empowerment and Sustainability – Reforming America’s Syrian Refugee Policy

Sahar Aziz et al
Date of Publication: 
January, 2019
Source Organization: 

One of the major challenges facing many countries today is tackling the unprecedented increase in the number of refugees and other displaced people. In 2018, nearly 20 percent of these displaced people were Syrian. In this study, scholars from Rutgers University’s Center for Security, Race and Rights discuss the United States’ response to the Syrian refugee crisis and examine the challenges facing neighboring countries, using Jordan as a test case. Contrary to common belief, the vast majority (80 percent) of externally displaced Syrians are residing in neighboring countries. These host countries are obliged to follow the international legal norm of “non-refoulement,” which mandates them to accommodate refugees until they can safely return home. The example of Jordan shows that meeting this obligation causes unparalleled financial burdens and political challenges for the host countries and ultimately disrupts regional stability. In the case of the Middle East, the U.S. is an influential player and “has a national interest in sustaining the capacity of international systems to respond to protracted refugee crises.” As such, the authors suggest that the U.S. should take on more responsibility in solving this crisis and revisit its policies towards refugees from the Middle East. They recommend: (a) increasing U.S. aid to fund programs that economically empower refugees toward self-sustainability; (b) strengthening state institutions and private sector groups in the region, particularly in Jordan; (c) providing support for humanitarian projects that help refugees; and (d) accepting more, not fewer, Syrian refugees into the U.S. By taking a more enlightened view of the Syrian refugee crisis and working together with countries in the region, the U.S. can foster the development of policies to benefit both refugees and host communities. (Ayse Alkilic for The Immigrant Learning Center Public Education Institute)

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Aziz, S., et al. (2019). Toward Empowerment and Sustainability – Reforming America’s Syrian Refugee Policy. Center for Security, Race and Rights, Rutgers University. Retrieved from