The Moneyist: I make $140K a year. I’m trying desperately to help my half siblings: 2 are refugees in Turkey, 3 are in Syria. What can I do?

The Moneyist: I make $140K a year. I’m trying desperately to help my half siblings: 2 are refugees in Turkey, 3 are in Syria. What can I do?

Dear Moneyist,


I’m not really sure where to start.


I was raised by great parents in America, but grew up from the age of 13 knowing my father wasn’t biologically related to me. I never met him. I spent 20-plus years looking for him, but I was reduced to DNA websites and Facebook.



By a miracle, in August I found a cousin who introduced me to five half siblings: all Syrian refugees or people who had internally fled the war. We have a language barrier, COVID, war, and so much more, but I messaged with them, and they told me our biological father was dead.


Except that he wasn’t. Turns out, he became a translator for the British Army in Iraq and was eventually resettled in the U.K. He asked his third wife to lie to his kids because he once supposedly had money, his brothers stole it, and his kids (supposedly) kept expecting it.


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From messaging with some of my half siblings over the last few months, I’m skeptical that this is true. I tracked him down, he wanted me to lie for him about his death, and he suggested I pay for some private treatment. I blocked him after I caught him lying about something else.


I live in Florida, make $140,000 a year, and I am trying desperately to help my siblings. Two are refugees in Turkey, three are in Syria. Obviously, I’m not making crazy money, but my family is secure. I feel incredibly protective and heartbroken of their missed dreams and destroyed lives.


I want to help. I am very familiar with U.S. immigration, but the options are really narrow. My wife suggested making Turkey better for them, and I think that’s a great idea: I reached an agreement with a sibling in Turkey to start a grocery store, and all the others really respect him. But the siblings in Syria are basically refusing to leave and, of course, it’s their lives.


Without keeping this going much longer: I want to help; I don’t pretend to know everything; they talk about how bad everything is, but they don’t want to leave; and I just don’t know what else to do.

Thank you.


American brother


Dear Brother,


I am moved by your compassion for your siblings, and your efforts to find your father and deal with him man-to-man. I am also impressed by your dignity and self respect. It sounds like you quickly realized that your father was not someone who was healthy to have in your life and, given that he wants his children to believe he is dead, realizing that you were not going to lie for him as a price for maintaining a relationship with him. Given that this is a story about borders and boundaries and obstacles, you have strong emotional boundaries that you set with others.


That makes your efforts to take care of your half siblings, and help them all the more powerful. Legally, you would have an uphill battle. The International Refugee Assistance Project can provide more information on how to help your family and others in their situation. To bring your half siblings to the U.S., you would be required to prove that your father was married to both your mother and their mother. Canada has, in fact, settled more refugees in recent years than the U.S. Prior to 2017, the U.S. settled millions of refugees more than the rest of the world’s countries combined.


My advice to you is more that of a friend than the Moneyist. You grew up in America and you want your half siblings and their children to have what you have. That’s a noble quest. As is the fact that you helped your half brother set up a grocery store so he can become self-sufficient and, in a familial version of trickle down economics, help his own siblings out too. They have a shared history, culture, friends and family in Turkey and Syria and, as perilous as Syria has become, their wish to remain there is as honorable as your desire to help them.


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Turkey has accepted 3.7 million Syrian refugees since the war began, nearly one-third of whom live in refugee camps. Empowering your family in Turkey is the most immediate and effective way of helping them. You could also help your family in Turkey by providing them legal counsel. Ultimately, you have taken a thoughtful and proactive approach to help them. If and when there is a vaccine for COVID-19, you can visit your family in Turkey, and figure out what more could be done in person.


I caution against giving yourself an Herculean task so soon after finding them. You are in a privileged position, and it clearly feels unjust to you that you have more than you need, and they appear to have so little. But they are also at the center of their own storm: an historical, personal and political crossroads that may or may not come to an end in the years ahead. You can continue to be their brother, communicate with them with an open heart, and seek out legal counsel to explore the best means to help them.


You can also help the cause by giving assistance to people who have made it to the U.S. The Refugee Council USA helps settle refugees in the U.S. This is a directory of reception and placement programs. Hello Neighbor is a refugee and immigrant database. You can also help with your time and English-language skills, and school supplies. You can’t be your family’s savior. You can, however, take that place in your family that has been waiting for your, and in the family of your Syrian brothers and sisters, continue listen to what they need, and stand tall by their side.


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You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com. Want to read more?Follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitterand read more of his columns here.


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