As the world is reeling from the shocking terrorist attacks in the highly visible and admired city of Paris, a family of five arrived in the relatively quiet city of Perth. This family from Homs, a city in Western Syria, is the first of the 12,000 Syrian refugees who will be resettled in Australia. They will be engaged in English language training and proficiency. They will also be assisted to find employment and have immediate access to welfare support.
They did not arrive with much fanfare. It was probably better that way, just in case some politicians imitate their counterparts in some of the States in the US who are strongly recommending the cancelation of their committed refugee intake after the attacks. It appears that fear is the sole motivator of the politicians. They perhaps need to be properly informed and engaged with these persons.
According to an article in The Economist1, “Of the almost 750,000 refugees who have been admitted to America since 9/11, only two Iraqis have been arrested on terrorist charges; they had not planned an attack in America, but aided al-Qaeda at home. Syrians in America have fared better than other groups of refugees, integrating quickly and finding work. Some have done very well indeed: the father of Steve Jobs, the ground-breaking innovator and founder of Apple, was a refugee from Syria. And the mother of Jerry Seinfeld, the comedian, is of Jewish Syrian descent.”
A decade or so ago, as I watched and listened to the local media, I was pretty ambivalent with my perception of refugees. And then, I met one lady at a retreat in southern New South Wales. I engaged her in a very deep conversation. I listened to her story. Then I understood her plight and the plight of millions of refugees around the world.
The cleaner in my previous office was very trustworthy, hard working and peace loving. He worked with us for three years. Only when he moved to another town that I came to know that he was an Afghan refugee.
The father of this Syrian family was interviewed upon their arrival. He said that all he wanted was “a better future for him and his children.” He just wanted to thank everybody for giving them “a chance at happiness.” He also said that he’d like “to provide a good education” for his children. And his most important ambitions are: “to educate my kids well, to find safety, to get a job, and live in peace."
Aren’t these dreams the same dreams as all fathers around the world have? Yes, he is a refugee. And he is also a parent. He also wants safety and peace – for his family and for the world.
1 The Economist, Oct 18th 2015, by V.V.B. (Chicago)
Photo source: www.theaustralian.com.au (Peter Dutton with the family at a refugee camp in Jordan. Picture: Ella Pellegrini)