Syrian family escapes civil war, but struggles in the US

CCTV News

Alarjeh family at mealtime

Next week, the plight of 21 million refugees worldwide will become the focus of a U.N. summit. One of the most pressing crises – Syrian refugees fleeing the country’s civil war. CCTV’s Roza Kazan met one family in New Jersey.

Syrian family escapes civil war, but struggles in the US

Syrian family escapes civil war, but struggles in the US

Next week, the plight of 21 million refugees worldwide will become the focus of a U.N. summit. One of the most pressing crises - Syrian refugees fleeing the country's civil war. CCTV's Roza Kazan met one family in New Jersey.

When the four children on the Alarjeh family heard the U.S. State Department had selected them to come to America, they had big hopes.

Fourteen year old Mahel said he heard a lot about how great life in the U.S. was. “That it’s very big and beautiful, and they have great schools here,” he said.

In Syria, Ziyad Alarjeh ran his own business, repairing air conditioners and refrigerators. But when the civil war broke out the family fled to Jordan. They came to the U.S. in July 2015 – in hopes of a better life. But the reality turned out much harsher than the dream.

“Work is very difficult here,” said Ziyad. “Back home, we don’t get paid by the hour and because I didn’t go to college here, all I can do here is hard manual labor, lifting things.”

Ziyad works in construction, traveling an hour each way. His wife, Lama, has health problems and cannot work.

They receive $700 a month in food stamps and got rent assistance for the first three months. But now the family is on its own.

Ziyad earns about $1,600 a month. The rent for their two-bedroom apartment is $1,400.

“I never thought I would have to work a whole month just to pay the rent,” said Ziyad. “I thought maybe half of my salary would be spent on rent but not all of it.”

Syria’s protracted civil war has displaced 11 million people. Nearly five million have fled abroad. The United States so far has pledged to accept 10,000.

Many of the Syrian refugees, desperate for safety, have made the perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. The international charity Oxfam has brought many of the lifejackets from that perilous journey here to New York from Greece.

They say the lifejackets illustrate the dangers families face. And for the Alarjehs, their struggle has yet to have a happy ending.

“There is no hope for me here, no prospects,” said Ziyad. “God willing, the hope is for my children, that they get an education. All I hope for myself is to go back safely to Syria.”

A dream that may be long in the making.