Many people are familiar with the mainstream media coverage of the Syrian refugee crisis. The recent global conflicts have stirred one of the largest displacement issues of our time. According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) the number of refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced people has exceeded 50 million people, the highest since the post World War II era.
In response to the continuing crisis, the nation’s prominent American Muslim organizations have come together to form a new coalition to collectively address the needs of refugees. The project was initiated by the the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC) and includes organizations such as Zakat Foundation of America (ZF).
In addition to ZF, other organizations include Arab American Family Services, Muslim Women’s Resource Center, ICNA Relief, Syrian Community Network (SCN), and Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR). The goal is to understand the strengths each organization provides, the populations they serve, and what areas need to be improved.
ZF has already been active in serving refugees abroad and overseas. Currently, ZF is in the beginning stages of establishing resettlement integration centers. This includes facilitating the resettlement of over 200 Rohingya families that have migrated to Chicago, including providing the Rohingya with winter coat relief.
One of the community members involved in the new collective is Ifrah Magan, who is currently finishing a Ph.D program at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). In the past, Magan has worked extensively with refugee resettlement issues, helping undocumented minors and supporting educational programs for refugee youth. For Ifrah, the refugee crisis is both academic and personal. She herself was a refugee that came to the United States after her family fled Somalia.
“It’s great because it provides a platform for all of us to find ways to collaborate and support one another,” said Magan on the new coalition.“Resettlement is a long process. It’s important once the refugee issue drifts away that we still continue these conversations.”
A major issue Magan highlighted was the trauma associated with moving to a host nation, especially for the refugee youth. “These kids are going into public schools and it isn’t only a language issue, but more so generational differences,” said Magan. “There’s disconnect and differences between the culture at home and school.”
“As a coalition, we’re going to develop various strategies to create sustainable programs that matter, can be evaluated, and then followed up with awareness programs.”
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