How Good Of A Job Is Argentina Really Doing At Accepting Refugees From Syria?

Depends on who you ask and whether you are looking at the national or provincial level.

On March 23, the Associated Press (AP) published an article titled “Argentina Welcomes Syria Migrants after Trump Slams Door.” In it, the author highlights the generosity of a relief program currently being carried out in the San Luis Province, noting that its administration is paying for the program’s participants’ “flights from Syria and providing housing, jobs, health services, psychological assistance and Spanish lessons so the people escaping civil war can make a new start.”

Four days later — i.e today — Infobae published an article titled “Pauses, doubts and fears in Macri’s plan to bring in 3,000 Syrian refugees.” The article reports that only about 200 Syrians have made their way to Argentina since the President committed to have the government help 15 times many more people settle in the country before the United Nations last year. The main cause for this, the article says, lies in “budget problems, bureaucratic obstacles, the economic recession and fear of letting in potential members of terrorist organizations.”

It is true that AP’s article highlights a specific program from the San Luis Province, and mentions that roughly 200 people have come through the national government’s program so far. However, the article’s headline seems to make reference to the country as a whole. It is possible the article didn’t specify this is taking place in an Argentine province, rather than the country as a whole, to make it easier for the reader to pinpoint the location. But the title can also be misleading, considering the fact that the national government also has a plan to welcome migrants, but the implementation of this program is not going as planned.

Photo via Migraciones
Photo via Migraciones

The contrast between the success of San Luis’s program and the failure of national government’s then can be used as a standpoint to analyze the difference between the Macri administration’s good intentions — the promise to receive 3,000 people — and the evidence the National Direction of Migrations (DNM) presented to Infobae. Because even though the government always clarified that the people wouldn’t get to the country from one day to the other, taking in roughly 200 people in six months was surely not the pace they expected to to make progress at either.

Last year, the DNM created the so-called “Syria Table,” an entity comprised of representatives from the Ministries of Education, Health, Interior, Security, Production, Labor, the Federal Intelligence Agency and NGOs involved in the program. “Ever since there were few step forwards and several obstacles at the time of implementing the program,” the article reads. Mariano Winograd, head of “Refugio Humanitario” (Humanitarian Refuge) NGO and member of the Syria Table told The Bubble that is putting it lightly.

“The Syria table has only met twice. The first time was to introduce ourselves, and the second one was for something similar. Practically nothing is solved. It’s not agile. I’ve sent several emails to other members [to see if there were any updates, or find out if there was going to be a next meeting], but I’ve never been answered. It doesn’t work as an executive body,” he said.

Refugio Humanitario is an NGO that serves as a nexus between Syrian migrants who intend to come to Argentina and local families who want to receive them. Since Syrians can only come to the country if they can prove that a person, family or institution — denominated “llamantes” (callers) — are willing to host them and help them integrate into society, this is a key factor in the process.

refu

Ever since its creation last May, Refugio Humanitario has connected multiple Syrian families with volunteers who will then host them, but the government’s inability to smoothly roll out the promised plan makes the process far more complicated. However, Winograd argues that neither the Macri, nor the Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administrations are to blame for this, as the failure is yet another sample of the country’s systemic problems to get things done.

“We are an extremely disorganized country. We have an enormous vocation for solidarity and we can also be disruptive in a positive way. But that disruption is not well applied and that’s why things never go like they should,” he added.

Infobae’s article explains that the problems the government’s program is facing can be found both here and in Syria. The intelligence agents who have been sent to the border between Syria and Lebanon are facing difficulties at the time of thoroughly screening the candidates, and successfully preventing the possibility of having a member of a terrorist organization enter the country.

As for the problems in local soil, the Macri administration is having a hard time getting the funds needed to provide financial aid to those who are finally approved to come. The article points out that government officials are actively trying to get the money, but that the international entities that could solve this issue are presenting “bureaucratic requirements that are hard to solve.” The good intentions are there, the only thing missing is everything else. Well, except in San Luis it seems.

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