Fact Checking Beliefs on Syrian Refugees

Most Syrian refugees are not fighting-age males.


On Detroit Today‘s program on November 17, 2015, a caller expressed frustration with the United States – specifically Michigan – accepting refugees from war-torn Syria. The caller made a couple of claims that went unchecked on the live program. Detroit Today producer Laura Weber-Davis joins host Stephen Henderson to clear up a couple of the claims which have been widely spread over the past couple months. 

Claim 1) Most of the Syrian refugees are fighting-age men.

Here’s what we know:

  • As pointed out on Fact Check, this is a claim first notably made by Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson on September 14th on CNN. Ben Carson’s top foreign policy adviser was quoted in the New York Times on November 17th as saying the candidate fails to grasp foreign policy issues after months of briefing. “Nobody has been able to sit down with him and have him get one iota of intelligent information about the Middle East,” said the adviser, Duane Clarridge. 
  • The United Nations says there are about 4.3 million Syrian refugees to date.
  • Female refugees outnumber male refugees, though only slightly.
  • Children outnumber adult refugees. 51.2 percent of the refugees are children age 17 and younger, and most of them younger than age 12.
  • The percentage of Syrian refugee men who could be considered of fighting age – ages 18 to 59 – is 22.1 percent.

Claim 2) American colonists all rose up to fight the British for independence.

Though this is a squishier claim than the first and more of an insinuation from the caller, here’s what we know:

  • The Independence Hall Association says current belief among historians is 20 percent of colonists were British loyalists, a smaller percentage favored American Independence, and a great majority of colonists were undecided fence-sitters.
  • About 80,000 British loyalists became refugees from America, and fled north through Canada.