Background: The Syrian Refugee Crisis

Updated: Feb 26, 2019

By Yasmin Tuerner

Image: A fishing boat packed with refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea towards Europe. Credit: The Berkshire Edge

Our political climate in 2018 is tense, unstable, and unpredictable. On one side of the spectrum we have Europe: since 2015, the continent has been facing a large influx of Refugees and is still trying to figure out a plan of action in terms of regulation, border control, and policymaking. This developed into what we call Europe’s Refugee Crisis: a crisis which lead to political turmoil both within and beyond national borders, economic insecurity, and even to the partial separation of the European Union.

On the other side of this spectrum lies Syria, a culturally rich and beautiful country, which has been fighting a civil war for the last 8 years. Ever since the political disputes between oppositions and the Syrian government started, the country developed into a wild and violent warzone - characterised by regular bombings, bloody shootings, and drone attacks. This has lead to the death of thousands of people, and put Syria into a state of emergency that desperately calls for humanitarian aid.

The Syrian war started in 2011. Initially, peaceful protests encouraging political change were greeted by a forceful response of Syrian security forces and the government. The conflict developed to become not only a humanitarian crisis, but arguably also a proxy war for the world’s superpowers: the USA and Russia. The rise of the IS has also lead to political and economic tensions in the region. Their occupation of certain regions has lead to more forced migration. Ever since the civil war emerged, over 11 million Syrians have fled the country and are on the run. The humanitarian disaster is worsening day by day, with over 6 million people living in areas isolated from any civilisation or humanitarian aid. Within the country alone, 13 million people are still in need of humanitarian assistance.

The knock-on effects of this crisis lead to the ‘crisis’ taking place in Europe today. Millions of people risked their lives and paid large sums to leave the war and seek refuge in safer countries in Europe. The routes of their journeys are shocking. The International Organisation of Migration stated that the majority arrived by sea and barely any by land. This has lead to individuals arriving in Greece or Italy, in order to pursue their journey to Germany or Hungary from there. But over 4 thousand people have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea during these trips due to overcrowding of the boats. Today, the mass movement has extremely decreased in contrast to its peak years of 2015 and 2016, therefore Europe’s key responsibilities lie internally: in trying to improve their asylum policies and encourage fast and efficient integration, whilst respecting the needs of its citizens to avoid further political separation. In terms of the EU’s external responsibilities in response to the war in Syria, it is claimed that they want to find a quick solution to have a smooth political transition, promote democracy and human rights and save lives by addressing the humanitarian needs. Yet, in March 2018, instead of some prospect of improvement in sight, we are seeing more countries’ militaries getting involved, as well as escalations in surrounding regions. As of now, the future prospects and developments are unclear.

When trying to explain the Syrian Refugee crisis, I believe that I have one key responsibility. This responsibility includes trying to draw a clear connection between the Syrian Civil War and the mass influx of refugees in Europe. Often, each case is being studied independently, without considering its root causes or knock-on effects. The reality is that they are causally related. And realising this relation is vital, for both the promotion of political change and responses coming from Europe, as well as the stimulation of social and economic improvements in the region.


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