HAZELWOOD, MO (KTVI) – Could thousands of Syrian refugees be heading for resettlement in St. Louis?
'I don`t believe anybody with a heart would not want these people to come here and rebuild their lives,' said Faizan Syed, executive director of the St. Louis Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which is hoping to persuade U.S. officials to relocate thousands of the refugees in the St. Louis area.
For weeks now, we have been seeing the heartbreaking images of desperate Syrian families fleeing the violence of civil war, trying to make a new life in Europe.
Now, the United Nations is asking the United States to take in 65,000 of them by next year.
Syed says bringing Syrian refugees to St. Louis is both the right thing and the smart thing to do.
'They are not fleeing out of starvation, they are fleeing because of war and many of them have left their businesses behind so bringing that type of intellegencia here will greatly benefit our community and them as well,' he said.
Last week on the website NEXTSTL.COM, a column written by a pastor at Memorial Presbyterian Church of St. Louis got people on social media talking about the idea of St. Louis becoming Little Syria.
'The reality is we`ve got room here,' said Pastor Greg Johnson. 'There are whole neighborhoods in St. Louis city that are largely empty; there are a lot of rental properties that will rent very cheap. That is why we are a host city for so many refugees, because we are so well resourced,' Johnson said.
Supporters point out St. Louis absorbed more than 60,000 Bosnians in the 1990’s, and they revitalized the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis, remodeling houses and opening new businesses.
Still, when it comes to adding more refugees, some St. Louisans, including Charlotte Dotson, are dubious.
'If they are talking about bringing that many more people in, I think it could be a big strain on our economy,' she said.
Syed says he has heard that argument before.
'There is always negative reaction. The thing we look at is whether it`s the moral, right thing to do and is it the best thing to do, and I believe that it is, and I believe the majority of the people will agree with that as well,' Syed said.
So far, there are 29 Syrian refugees in the City of St. Louis, according to the mayor`s office, which 20 more coming.
There is a march in support of bringing refugees to St. Louis planned for 5:30 p.m. Sunday in the Delmar Loop.