TOLEDO, Oh. (WNWO) — Coming to the United States is a dream for many Syrian refugees. However, this opportunity could take years, if at all, forcing refugees to live in camps throughout the Middle East.
NBC 24 will soon travel to the Middle East with Northwest Ohio’s Hearing Clinic's HearCare Connection. We’ll have daily reports from Jordan to show you how this non-profit organization will give the gift of hearing to Syrian refugees. Sharon Gaeta will travel with them overseas and is breaking down the process of how Syrian refugees enter the United States.
“Life in the camp is hard, hard, very hard," said Ammar Alajrab, a Syrian Refugee now living in Toledo.
It’s a rigorous screening process in order to live in the land of the free for Syrian refugees like Ammar Alajrab.
“The difference is big from one to one hundred," Alajrab said. "You feel like you’re a human being."
Alajrab is living in Toledo after years in a refugee camp in Jordan, where the process could take up to three years to find a new home. Many refugee's destinations depend on where they have family already living.
"The process is 13 steps [long] and they go through interviews," said Corine DeHabey, program director for US Together. "In between each interview [there is] about a three month wait, and once they decide they are fit to come to the United States, they go through the security check."
If a refugee chooses the United States, the government has the sole authority to screen and decide which refugees are admitted. Dehabey tells NBC 24 that Syrian refugee applicants undergo an additional screening by the Department of Homeland Security and that they are the only refugee group to do so.
“They interview them again," DeHabey said. "They ask them the same questions again after a few months to see if they are lying about it the first time."
DeHabey says since the 1800's, Syrian immigrants have been coming to America and starting businesses here in northwest Ohio. That’s why she believes Toledo is an attractive area for many Syrian refugees.
"If they have a relative here, they come to that geographical area," said DeHabey. "But a lot of times, Toledo is known as the most integrated Middle Eastern community and it's a very welcoming community."
Currently, a total of 109 Syrian refugees live in Toledo, and that number is growing by the day.
Coverage of "Hearing the Call," sponsored by Furniture Palace, will air beginning Monday, Aug. 29 on NBC 24 News at 5, 6, and 11 p.m.