Second Syria :: IRIN
Compulsory military service, low wages, corruption, a poor investment climate and hassles at the airport from Syrian security officials, are just a few of the reasons given by members of Syria’s 15 million strong expatriate community for staying abroad.
One year ago exactly, a conference in Damascus promised to find ways to lure back this “second Syria”, a nation of doctors, scientists and teachers, numbering only a few million less than their countrymen at home.
Syria’s educated elite has been leaving the country in large numbers since the 1970s to escape poverty and the constraints of living under an authoritarian government.
The 2005 National Human Development report, published jointly by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the State Planning Commission, said only 20 percent of Syrians who gained a Phd at a foreign university returned home afterwards.
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According to information published at last year’s conference, Brazil hosts about five million people of Syrian descent, while Argentina has a further 1.5 million.
There are also thought to be about 750,000 Syrian expatriates in the United States.
However, it is abundantly clear that the expatriate community has valuable skills to offer.
Of the 59,000 Syrians living in Germany, around 18,000 are doctors, according to the delegation of Syrians from Germany which attended the Damascus conference.
In the Middle East, it is estimated that as many as two thirds of the teachers in Gulf States such as the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Dubai are of Syrian origin.