How Many Of Syria's Refugees Are Coming To South Florida?

Oct 12, 2015

Credit Mercy Corps

The more than 4-year-old civil war in Syria has triggered what the United Nations is calling the biggest humanitarian crisis of our time.

About four million Syrians have been forced to flee their homeland as refugees. And in the last four years, about 1,500 have been relocated to the United States.

According to the State Department, the six states that have housed the most Syrian refugees so far are Texas, California, Michigan, Illinois, Arizona and Florida.

Dr. Doured Daghistani, a pediatric oncologist and board member of the Syrian American Council of South Florida, says the culture shock endured by Syrian refugees arriving here is unlike any other immigrant experience.

"They're coming with a big psycho-social burden on them," said Daghistani. 

One family the Council is working with is still dealing with a devastating loss. The father arrived here in 2013 with his teenaged daughter and two young sons. The mother had disappeared in Syria months earlier while waiting in line to get food for her family.  The children have witnessed kids their age killed in the streets from barrel bombs allegedly used by the regime of Bashar Al-Assad on civilians.

Last month, President Obama said his administration is preparing to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees in the coming budget year.  Daghistani said he expects 10-20% of the refugees to relocate to Florida and at least 10% to South Florida.

Recent polls show a majority of Americans are opposed to Obama's plan, with most believing it poses a threat to national security.

Daghistani said most of the 3,000 Syrians living in South Florida are professional people -- doctors, engineers, professors, business people -- and that the view of refugees as terrorists is stereotyping and ignores the stringent screening process they undergo.

"I think bringing the Syrian refugees here will help the humanitarian issues and will beef up the diversity of South Florida,"  Daghistani said.