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Syria: How Can Expats Help?

Categories: Middle East & North Africa, Syria, Development, Economics & Business, Migration & Immigration

This month [1]‘s topic of Creative Syria [2]‘s Blogger Forum [3] was solely dedicated to the Syrian expatriate community.
“What role could expatriates play in building a better Syria? Are you satisfied with the government legislations concerning them? Are you satisfied with the performance of the Minister of Expatriates’ Affairs Dr. Buthayna Shaaban?” were the questions waiting to be answered.
Syria's expatriate community, albeit dispersed, counts for almost 16 million, with a very high percentage of highly educated individuals. This makes the topic ever more relevant, as their contributions can help speed up the social and economic changes in the country and help rebuild it .

Abu Kareem of Levantine Dreamhouse [4], an M.D. living in New York where he himself has been an expat for many years, wrote a very interesting critique [5]of the efforts the government has been putting to attract “the expatriates’ money rather than the expatriates themselves.”

But perhaps the single most important thing that the Ministry of Expatriate affairs can do for all expatriates is to facilitate their ability to visit or return to their homeland. It is preposterous that I can visit just about any country in the world with more ease than I can the country of my birth. The recent amendment of the military service law was not helpful and needs to be radically overhauled.

While, Naji Arwashan, who is the Syrian honorary consul general in Detroit, Michigan, and a long term expat also, brought out the idea [6] of pioneering an online newsletter that can be sent to the whole of the Syrian expat community, communicating issues of interest to them, and helping them to promote their country, Syria.

I would suggest here to the Ministry of Expatriates to commission to an NGO the task of starting an electronic newsletter dedicated to the affairs and news of the expatriates. The Ministry should put a big effort distributing such newsletter to all Syrian expatriates in the world (with the definite understanding that unsubscribing can be done by a click of a mouse). This certainly requires also an effort from our diplomatic missions to build and share their email lists. The newsletter would focus solely on expatriate’s news and would be a forum to address their questions and concerns, and also to explain new legislatives of interest to them.

Naim Nazha, also an M.D. who lives in the U.S., listed some examples [7] of the many things that expats can do for their country without much effort.

It is difficult to mention all the things that the Syrian immigrants can do for Syria. The first simple thing they can do is to be good examples to people in their adoptive countries, I mean to have a good reputation and be proud to declare their Syrian background when asked, our positions and reputation in our new countries reflect on Syria and how the public view it.

And finally, Camille Alexandre Otrakji, also a long term expat, and the founder of Creative Syria [8] and MidEast Image [9], seems very optimistic [10] about the future return of many of the high achievers back to Syria – even noting a trend in that lately.

Things changed. Now it seems that those who want to go back to Syria are not entirely made of the ones who gave up on making it in Montreal. Some highly successful individuals are seriously planning to examine their future prospects in Syria during their next summer visit.