Syrian Immigrant Reacts to Paris Attacks, Refugee Crisis

Omar Rajeh moved to the United States from Syria nearly three decades ago. Now, he runs the Mediterranea Restaurant on Orange Street in New Haven.

Upon hearing about the deadly terror attacks in Paris, Rajeh said, "what happened in Paris is a sad tragedy that's been happening in Syria for five years."

The refugee crisis from his war-torn homeland cannot be mixed with Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris, Rajeh said.

“I think the Syrian people have nothing to do with it,” Rajeh said, “they are very kind and lovely people, love peace, love life.”

According to the Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services (IRIS), six Syrian refugee families have settled in New Haven. A seventh family is expected to arrive this week, IRIS Executive Director Chris George said.

“The challenge for this country is how do we maintain a strong refugee resettlement program which saves people’s lives and at the same time not endanger our own,” George said.

George spoke Monday on a panel at Quinnipiac University about the refugee crisis. He told students he supports Governor Dannel Malloy’s decision for Connecticut to continue accepting Syrian refugees as many governors said Monday they plan to refuse them.

The Department of Homeland Security already has a thorough background check process in place for refugees which can take several years, George said.

“Refugees who are allowed to enter European countries have not gone through the same kind of background check they go through before they enter the United States,” George said, “[European countries] are probably beginning to think they should.”

Rajeh said he hopes families fleeing Syria will continue seeking refuge in the United States, while the world takes a stand against those responsible for the violence.

“I think the best thing is for everybody is to unite as one against terrorists,” Rajeh said.

Rajeh said he prays his three sisters still in Syria will stay safe. They live in Damascus, which is nearly 300 miles away from the ISIS stronghold of Raaqa.

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