Thursday, September 17, 2015

Personal involvement with refugees will be like foster parenting, but the need for it (for Syrians) is not as immediate as the hype says

The hype about moral duty and the refugee crisis continues.
The International Rescue Committee has a good page on what actual volunteering would entail, here
The Guardian has a good perspective on the “spare room” controversy as it is now in Britain, where it is more immediately pressing than in the US, here.  The newly arrived refugees will be housed in large centers supervised by the British government and various organizations, as in most other major countries.  But the Guardian points out that refugees who have been in Britain (or any western country) for a time and been denied asylum or run out of assistance are often in dire straits.  Then the “spare room” idea applies – and comes with a lot of risk.  But few people could take in the country’s own homeless. 
Still, another Guardian article shows that people offering “spare rooms” seems to be a tool to try to influence politicians to relax their security policies for economic or security reasons, here
The scale of the "housing offer" issue is bigger, relatively speaking, in Iceland.
Glenn Beck offered a similar argument in “The Blaze” here.  
MoveOn has a petition here.  Contrary to rumors, signing the petition is not an offer of housing or other personal assistance.  However, the site encourages people to post their photos as a show of emotional solidarity.

My immediate take on this is, well, reticence and caution.  You can’t apply to “house” a “new” refugee;  the refugee has to be vetted overseas and brought here legally.  The State Department will probably encourage charities (secular and faith-based) to form more new organizations to supervise individuals involved in assistance – as is happening in Canada – but that will take time.  This is more complicated in the US than most other countries (as I have explained in other posts).  So, no, I won’t put my name or face on a petition just right now. 

What appears to be shaping up in the volunteer area, besides giving money through established charities, is the idea that “volunteers” will need to be very dedicated to this kind of effort if they get involved at all.  It will involve time, interpersonal skill and caring, attention, risk-taking, and going out of the box, and questioning previous assumptions of appropriate involvement in the lives of others.  Becoming a foster parent might be an appropriate comparison.  And it is just too early to tell what the volume of hands-on-need will be.  But these situations tend to grow very quickly.  The Syrian question will raise new questions about longstanding immigration policy for Mexico and Central America (very divisive politically) and about other domestic issues of homelessness and poverty. It will even feed into the “inequality” debate.

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