The U.S. Department of State recently approved a plan to bring up to 100 Syrian refugees to Rutland, Vermont. This plan was strongly advocated for by the city mayor, Chris Louras, who maintained that refugees would grow both the population and the economy, as well as provide cultural enrichment to the small city of 16,000. Vermont has received many refugees over the years but they have typically been resettled in Burlington, a much larger city. Residents of Rutland have different perspectives on the resettlement of Syrian refugees in their city, which was apparent given the two campaigns that evolved, which were “Rutland First” and “Rutland Welcomes.”
Those that opposed the resettlement voiced concerns about terrorism, strains to the already struggling economy, and the current heroin epidemic in the city. The community has also voiced concerns about Syrian children integrating into the small school system, where language barriers are sure to arise. In an interview with NPR, one man asked the question, “…why Rutland? Why here?” perhaps feeling that the city is already in a fragile state and not ready for an influx of refugees. Some citizens had also taken to petitioning, using the online platform change.org to spread their message: “JUST SAY NO TO REFUGEES.”
The opposing side “Rutland Welcomes” is comprised of citizens looking forward to and preparing for the arrival of the 100 refugees.
What is happening in Rutland, though it may seem like a small case, is a significant moment for the U.S. and its response (or lack there of) to the global refugee crisis. President Obama “had pushed for the United States to admit at least 10,000 Syrian refugees by…Sept. 30”(Burlington Free Press). This push from President Obama is a step in the right direction. It speaks volumes, however, that more migrants from developing countries settle in other developing countries rather than in high-income countries, such as the U.S. (Bartlett & Ghaffer-Kucher). While this may be a matter of proximity for some, the influx of refugees into other developing countries puts a strain on societies where resources are already scarce for its native residents.
Jordan, a small country with a population of 7.5 million and an unemployment rate around 22%, has become “home to more than 1.4 million Syrians, including over 600,000 refugees who have arrived since the beginning of the conflict in 2011,” (nytimes.com). This influx has created conflict on the ground in Jordan. Because most Syrians are scattered throughout cities and towns in Jordan, rather than living in refugee camps, the resources in schools and hospitals have been maxed out. Jordanians are becoming resentful at the lack of jobs and nonnatives who are willing to work for low wages.
What is occurring in Rutland and what has been happening across Jordan and other developing countries highlights some of most prevalent concerns of those that are receiving Syrian refugees: strains on already struggling economies and inadequate school systems. There are no easy solutions to these issues but there is certainly more that the U.S. and other high-income countries can do to lessen the burden on already struggling, developing countries.
Burlington Free Press. Gram, Dave. 100 Syrian Refugees approved for Rutland. (2016, September 30). Retrieved from http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/news/2016/09/28/syrians-approved-rutland/91238678/
Change.org. Petitioning Christopher Louras Rutland Vermont and 14 others. Retrieved from https://www.change.org/p/christopher-louras-rutland-vermont-rutland-city-just-say-no-to-refugees
NPR. Keck, Nina. (2016, July 1). Vermont Town Debates Syrian Refugee Resettlement Program. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/2016/07/01/484381701/vermont-town-debates-syrian-refugee-resettlement-program
Nytimes.com. Sweis, R. (2016, February 13). Jordan Struggles Under a Wave of Syrian Refugees. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/14/world/middleeast/jordan-syria-refugees.html?_r=0
Bartlett & Ghaffer-Kucher. (2013, February 21). Refugees, Immigrants, an Education in the Global South—Lives in Motion.