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Syrians Could Soon Be Next Refugee Group To Call San Diego Home

A line of Syrian refugee women, some carrying children, cross into Jordan fro...

Credit: UN Refugee Agency

Above: A line of Syrian refugee women, some carrying children, cross into Jordan from southern Syria. The outflow this year has been staggering.

Photo by Megan Burks

Sohaib Alagha, vice president of the Syrian American Council and a San Diego resident, sits in his office on Aug. 26, 2015.

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More than 4 million Syrians are fleeing a violent civil war. The U.S. State Department has agreed to bring some of them into the country.

The U.S. State Department announced this week it will take in up to 8,000 Syrian refugees next year, and many of them could settle in San Diego.

"It's a double edge sword because on one hand, it's saddening to see the population of Syria — especially the educated class or other qualified individuals — leaving the area, which is going to keep it in turmoil for longer," said Sohaib Alagha, vice president of the Syrian American Council and a San Diego resident. "But at the same time, people are trying to survive."

Alagha, whose father is still in Syria, said "it's completely miserable — it's World War II type of destruction."

More than 4 million Syrians are fleeing a violent civil war. Tens of thousands are camping out in dire conditions, seeking access to Greece and other European Union countries.

The international community has called on the U.S. for some time to open its doors and ease the pressure.

Since the crisis began in 2011, the United States has accepted 1,000 Syrians. Alagha said four families who came to the country through a United Nations program settled in San Diego.

"We're saddened by the fact that the United States, which is the Statue of Liberty, is not taking as many Syrians in our worst, darkest moment," Alagha said.

There are no estimates yet on how many Syrians will arrive in San Diego next year.

The county settles about 2,700 refugees annually. That's about 4 percent of all refugees resettling in the United States each year, and 40 to 50 percent of those coming to California.

Alagha estimates between 10,000 and 15,000 Syrian Americans already reside in the region, mostly in North County.

"They are hardworking. They are freedom-seeking individuals, and they will contribute to any place they end up in," Alagha said. "And actually what I would hope is most of them would go back and rebuild Syria after the end of the disaster which we are in."

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