As the United States debates how to properly vet 10,000 Syrian refugees expected to resettle here, employees with Samaritan’s Purse are stationed on the frontlines in Greece, working to be a “face of compassion” for refugees fleeing war and terror.
Ken Isaacs, vice president of programs and government relations for Samaritan’s Purse, spent a week in Greece, where the Christian organization has deployed employees and contractors to the region to assist scores of refugees flowing into the country, with hopes of continuing deeper into Europe.
There, the group’s workers meet refugees arriving by rubber rafts on Greek islands and provide them with food, water, and blankets, among other items.
Workers with Samaritan’s Purse are also stationed in transit centers near the border of Croatia and Serbia, where they provide medical attention, food, and blankets to refugees arriving there.
Since the start of the Syrian civil war four years ago, more than 4 million Syrians—a fifth of the population—have fled the country. Nearly 2 million Syrian refugees have traveled to Turkey, and more than 1 million fled to Lebanon, with many living in refugee camps.
Others are taking the dangerous journey across the Aegean Sea to Greece on rubber rafts with plans to move throughout Europe, with Germany serving as the final destination for many, Isaacs said. Germany is expected to take in 800,000 refugees.
Just over 2,000 Syrian refugees, meanwhile, have resettled in the United States since the start of the civil war in Syria. As news spread of the growing refugee crisis, the Obama administration announced that the government would accept 10,000 Syrian refugees this fiscal year.
In an email interview with The Daily Signal, Isaacs, who was traveling abroad, shared his experiences helping refugees fleeing Syria.
“I understand that people have legitimate concerns about accepting refugees into their countries,” he said. “However, the vast majority of these refugees are fleeing war and terrorism in their own countries and are seeking safety and security for their families. We are working to meet the needs of refugees right where they are.”
‘Thrilled to be Alive’
The world truly began to “confront” the Syrian refugee crisis in early September after a photo of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi’s body lying facedown on a Turkish beach was published by Turkish media.
Wearing a red shirt, dark shorts, and Velcro sneakers, Kurdi, with his family, left Syria and traveled across Turkey, bound for Greece, but the young Kurdish boy drowned after the rubber raft he and his family were traveling in across the Aegean Sea capsized.
For many fleeing Syria, Isaacs said, their journeys to Greece carry them either on foot or by sea, with many bringing few belongings in backpacks or bags. Children as young as 2 or 3 years old walk alongside their parents, who often carry their younger siblings in their arms, he said.
“Those who are arriving by rafts are thrilled to be alive—as the journey across the Aegean Sea is harrowing,” Isaacs said. “Most refugees travel without knowing exactly where…