“Looking for a Chance to Survive”: Red Cross Hosts Discussion on Syrian Refugee Crisis

Story by Drew McNeil, Communications Volunteer, Los Angeles, California
Photos by Aaron Martinez, Communications Volunteer, Los Angeles, California

The Red Cross Los Angeles Region International Services brought together four international refugee experts in December for a community forum about the humanitarian crisis taking place in Syria and the plight of Syria’s refugees.

The event, which took place at the Red Cross San Gabriel Pomona Valley Chapter in Pasadena, began with the screening of a new documentary called Flight of the Refugees by Elias Mutar, a Syrian-American filmmaker. Mutar traversed the borders of European nations during 2015 documenting the plight of refugees. The documentary exhibited many powerful images, including families having to cross miles of dirt roads surrounded by minefields in the complete dark, while accompanying children and elderly family members. When asked why they would go through such hardship, one refugee replied “because there is no hope.”

An international barefoot volunteer is asked, “Did you give your shoes away again?” solidifying the impact this crisis has had on the volunteers who are helping the refugees. In fact, Mutar offered food, water, and even the clothes off of his back to assist some of the thousands of people he came into contact with seeking out a better life.

Following the screening, the audience was invited to participate in a discussion about the humanitarian issues resulting from the Syrian Civil War with panelists Yasmine Merei, Syrian journalist and managing editor of Saiedet Souria; Martin Zogg, International Rescue Committee Los Angeles; Carolina Sheinfeld, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles; and Elias Mutar, activist and filmmaker.

The panelists answered questions about conditions in Syria, the difficulties migrants face, and what the United States is doing to assist in resettling refugees. The panelists reiterated that the people seen in the movie were actually the lucky ones, with thousands dying during the harrowing trip, or coming to harm by staying in Syria. Syrian journalist Yasmine Merei explained that the destination is less important because “There is not choice, people are just looking for a chance to survive.”

Thanks to AmeriCorps member Nancy Dinh and Sophia Epsen for their assistance in helping coordinate the event.

To read more about the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies’ response to the Syrian refugee crisis, click here.

To read more stories from the Los Angeles Region of the American Red Cross, please click here.