Recently, I attended a seminar on the Syrian Refugee Crisis and the European Union’s response to it. When I informed my friends of this, in the days following the seminar, the amount of them that were completely unfamiliar with entire situation was astounding. To inform the clueless populace and maybe even expand the existing knowledge of those already abreast of the situation, here is some information on what one of the seminar speakers termed “the largest crisis since World War II.”
Right now, as we sit on campus stressing about a few midterms and essays, a civil war is occurring. It is in the simplest of terms, a political and social battle with divisions between ethnic groups and between proponents of secularism and Islamism. In the past four years, this turmoil has killed over 220,000 people, caused roughly four million people to leave the county, and internally, it has displaced an estimated 7.6 million people.
While the Syrian government has laws in place to protect its people according to the constitution, it is not living up to these institutional promises. Bombings, resource scarcities and egregious human rights violations persist daily. The majority of people fleeing Syria are seeking refuge in the neighboring countries of Jordan and Lebanon, but this influx of refugees is destabilizing infrastructure of these nearest countries as the overburdening amount of people are too much to handle. Economic strains and cultural tensions inevitably follow these migrants, as they unintentionally bring part of the conflict they are so desperate to escape with them.
As these neighboring countries can no longer hold any more people, the refugees are forced to flee to farther countries. The most recent months have seen wave after wave of migrants attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea and settle in Europe. Because of various creeds that many European states abide by (especially the Geneva Convention in this particular case), Europeans are supposed be more lenient with the entry of refugees into their borders. In fact, a refugee—someone with a well-founded fear of being persecuted—is not supposed to be sent back. Refugees are not even supposed to be punished for entering a country illegally as they are trying to seek safety and security.
Yet many Europeans do not want the refugees—whether it be on principle, because of cultural reasons, or maybe just because they fear that the refugees with bring their problems with them as they settle in Europe. A rise in anti-refugee policy has led to the implementation of various regulations and loopholes in order to restrict entry.
With very few welcoming options beyond the overburdened refugee camps in their immediate neighboring countries and a civil war that shows no signs of dying down in the near future, the future looks bleak for refugees. Many fight each day to escape the life-threatening atrocities decimating their homeland.
Action needs to be taken by both the UN and the EU to accommodate these refugees. Even more importantly though, the UN needs to come up with a strategy to bring peace to this war-torn state and end the bloodshed, preferably in a more productive way than most recent peace-keeping operations.