Local News

Syrians in Triangle worry about relatives amid refugee backlash

Posted November 18, 2015 8:13 p.m. EST
Updated November 18, 2015 8:29 p.m. EST

— The sympathies afforded to Syrian refugees fleeing the civil war in their country have given way to suspicion since French authorities said a refugee might have taken part in last week's terrorist attacks in Paris.

Gov. Pat McCrory and dozens of other state and national officials have in recent days asked that resettlement of refugees in the U.S. halt until the background screening process the refugees go through is upgraded to ensure possible terrorists aren't allowed into the country.

Some Syrians in the Triangle said Wednesday that they worry about their relatives and whether they’ll be able to find safe haven.

"They are being pushed away from their homeland, leaving their home, and on top of that, from one attack, they're being backlashed," Kamel Alachraf said. "They're being pushed away from everywhere, and they're the ones that need our help the most."

Alachraf, 21, who grew up in Syria, moved to North Carolina four years ago. Because he was born in the U.S., he holds dual citizenship and has petitioned to obtain a visa for his father to join him in the U.S.. His younger sisters are already in the country, and his mother has been granted a visa for health reasons.

"They want just a normal human being life just like anybody else wants over here," he said, noting his parents live in an apartment in Damascus and rely on money he sends to them because the war destroyed their business.

As with refugees, however, getting his parents to the U.S. requires layer upon layer of security screenings.

"Background checks have to be taken care of, health examinations, all that kind of security checks until they can get approved to be able to get on American soil," he said.

Mahir Havta’s family isn't so lucky. One brother was forced to walk to Germany and another to Lebanon, while a third brother died two months ago in a bombing before he could escape Syria.

"People die every day," Havta said. "People are hungry. We hear a lot of situations (where) people eat the grass."

Both men said they worry the sudden backlash against Syrian migrants will jeopardize their families' safety, and they are disturbed by the perception that Syrian refugees are linked to terrorism.