Graph depicting Syrian Refugees Are Not Military-Age Men
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They Myth that the Syrian Refugees are Military-Age Men

Description: Republican sources have repeatedly asserted that a suspicious percentage of the Syrian refugees are "military-age" men. Fox claims that 72% are. Ben Carson claims that the majority are young males. Donald Trump claims that there aren't many women or children among the refugees. Carly Fiorina escalates to saying that the vast majority are young men. The chart on the left shows how that would look.

The chart on the right shows the actual data.

Sources: UN Refugee Agency

Last updated: March 20, 2016

Discussion: The origin of the Republicans' claim is a statistic showing that 62% of immigrants and refugees who arrived in the EU by sea during 2015 were male. That is true, but the statistic does not claim that 62% are "military-age," just that they are male, so that includes children and older men as well. And, of course, 62% is not 72%. Also, that is not a statistic about Syrian refugees. That statistic is about all immigrants arriving by sea. Half of the immigrants were from other countries. Over the summer, large numbers of migrants from Africa attempted to enter the EU by crossing the Mediterranean. The migration from Africa was major news culminating in the horrible capsizing of a Portuguese merchant vessel in which over 800 migrants died. The reason that slightly more (62%) than half of the migrants arriving in the EU by boat were male is presumably related to a slightly highly willingness to risk the dangerous journey from Africa in overloaded and low quality boats, not anything to do with Syria.

The actual numbers, shown on the right, come from the United Nations, which has performed an exhaustive study of 2.1 million Syrian refugees. 51% of the Syrian refugees are children, which is slightly more than in the Syrian population as a whole. While 25% are adult males, we do not have data on what portion of that 25% are "military-age." Presumably a significant portion of that orange slice is men who are older than "military-age."

The false claims about the Syrian refugees are not an honest mistake. They are being repeated by people, such as presidential candidates, who have staffs crafting their messaging on this issue, and those staffs clearly have the capability to look up the actual numbers. In fact, the claims are being repeated by major conservative news outlets that have entire fact-checking departments. The claims are lies designed to stir up fear of the refugees and to attempt to pressure the United States into refusing to help the innocent families who are fleeing ISIS.

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