White Paper Calls for ‘Plan of Action’ to Help Resolve the Syrian Refugee Crisis

January 28, 2016
by Doug Gavel

The U.S. could and should do more to help alleviate the hardships suffered by some of the estimated 9 million Syrians who have been displaced in recent years by violence and political upheaval.  That is the argument presented in a new white paper produced by Michael Ignatieff, Edward R. Murrow Professor of Press, Politics and Public Policy, and a group of Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) students.

The paper, titled “The United States and the Syrian Refugee Crisis: A Plan of Action,” is designed to provide U.S. policymakers with a blueprint for addressing the challenge in collaboration with its international partners in a politically pragmatic and genuinely humanitarian fashion.   

“It is in America’s national interest to help Europe manage and overcome this crisis by lending strong political support to its major European allies, particularly Germany, and by re-asserting its leadership role in refugee resettlement and integration,” the authors write.  “We propose a plan of action that renews American leadership and supports Europe while strengthening the national security of the United States.”

The proposed plan outlined in the paper calls for selecting as many as 23,000 Syrian refugees from camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey and resettling them this year through U.S. military installations at Fort Dix.  Once the refugees are processed, the plan mandates full federal funding for eight months of integration and resettlement payments. 

“In our view, these policies would affirm America’s best historical traditions, confirm its humanitarian commitments to desperate people and support its strategic objectives in the fight against jihadi extremism,” the authors conclude.  “Generous refugee policy is both a humanitarian and a strategic imperative.  We are in a battle for hearts and minds. If we allow fear to dictate policy, terrorists win.  If we give refugees hope, terrorists lose, America’s allies take heart, our alliances are strengthened and U.S. national security is enhanced.”

Michael Ignatieff is the Edward R. Murrow Professor of the Practice of the Press, Politics and Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School.  The paper co-authors -- Rana Abdelhamid MPP 2017, Lina Dakheel MPA 2016, Rihab Elhaj MPA 2016, Nikola Ilic MPA 2016, Uran Ismaili MPA 2016, Juliette Keeley MPP 2017, Merissa Khurma MPA 2016, Alex Maza MPP 2017, Betsy Ribble MPP 2017, Shannon Thomas MPP 2017, and Brynna Quillin MPP 2017 -- are students at the Kennedy School.

Michael Ignatieff, professor of public policy

Michael Ignatieff, Edward R. Murrow Professor of Press, Politics and Public Policy

“Generous refugee policy is both a humanitarian and a strategic imperative," Ignatieff and his students say.


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