For almost a year, Uruguay has hosted a small number of refugees from Syria’s drawn-out and bloody civil war. Now, fed up with their guests’ complaints, many Uruguayans would like to see their government send the refugees somewhere else. Or at least, they’d like to see their new guests stop complaining and make do.
As Yahoo News reports, some four million Syrians have fled the country since the outbreak of civil war in 2011, and the Syrian refugee crisis is only getting worse. In recent weeks, tens of thousands of refugees fleeing ISIS have risked their lives, desperately attempting to escape into Europe.
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The refugee crisis has gotten so bad that Pope Francis, along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have asked Western nations to accept the refugees.
Unfortunately for the refugees, many of those European nations neither want them nor can support them. For example, in Hungary, a small-town mayor made headlines weeks ago for creating a YouTube video meant to discourage the refugees from trying to come through his town on their way to Germany.
Similarly, an Obama administration plan to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees in the United States has been met with strong opposition from some conservatives. Right Wing News writer Scott McKay calls the plan “just an open door for a group of people we already know the global jihadist movement will try to seed with terrorists.” However, other Americans are ready to accept the refugees. As the Daily Caller notes, mayors of 18 U.S. cities — including Los Angeles, New York, and Baltimore — sent the Obama administration a letter indicating they are willing to accept more Syrian refugees.
In Uruguay, however, the accepting of Syrian refugees hasn’t gone well for either the refugees themselves or their Uruguayan neighbors. Called a “largely symbolic” move, the South American country of about three million people accepted five Syrian refugee families. The townsfolk of the coastal Uruguayan town of Juan Lacaze offered to accept one such family — that of refugee Mehri Alshebli, his wife, and 15 children.
Since arriving in Juan Lacaze last November, Alshebli’s new life has largely been about complaints. What he’s been given from the Uruguayan government — a house, a vegetable garden, and a monthly stipend — is not enough to make ends meet, he says.
“No sheep. No cows. No land.”
What little food Alshebli can grow in his vegetable garden, he says, is not enough to put food on the table. Food in Uruguay is too expensive, he says, and what little money he and his children can earn through odd jobs doesn’t help much, either.
“How can I feed 15 children?”
To make matters worse, Alshebli and the other Syrian refugees in Uruguay are legally stuck there. They can’t get Uruguayan passports because they’re not citizens, and Uruguay can’t force other nations’ governments to accept the national I.D. cards the refugees have been given.
Alshebli was so upset with his fate that earlier this month, he doused himself with gasoline while Uruguayan government officials visited his home.
Regular Uruguayans are not entirely sympathetic to Alshebli and other refugees’ plight. Many Uruguayans themselves struggle to make ends meet — 40 percent of Uruguayans earn less than $500 per months — and job opportunities are limited. Jennyfer Lopez, one of Alshebli’s neighbors in Juan Lacaze, suggests that sending poor refugees to a poor country just doesn’t make sense.
“Uruguay isn’t in a financial position to be receiving refugees.”
And while Uruguay’s existing Syrian refugees lobby the government to be allowed to settle somewhere else, the Uruguayan government intends to accept another 72 refugees later this year.
[Image courtesy of Getty Images / Milos Bicanski]