The sudden withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria that Trump has called for, potentially within as little as 30 days, would pose severe humanitarian risks. Read more by RI’s Vice President Hardin Lang.
In October, a Refugees International (RI) colleague and I traveled to Turkey to revisit the issue of work permits and livelihood access for the 3.5 million refugees now living there – 3.2 million of whom are Syrians. As in previous missions, we interviewed Syrian refugees who had recently fled their war-torn homeland.
Following the liberation of Raqqa, Syria from ISIS control, Daryl Grisgraber looks at the humanitarian needs of internally displaced people and of those who remained during the conflict. The physical and logistical obstacles to providing humanitarian aid may be fewer with the end of the fighting, but in a sense aid organizations are now playing catch-up with people whom they couldn’t previously serve adequately or at all.
The sixth anniversary of the Syria conflict is upon us. In those six years, five million Syrians have become refugees in neighboring countries. Inside Syria, six and a half million people are displaced from home, and 13.5 million need humanitarian aid to survive even as humanitarian needs continue to grow. The situation for 2017 does not look promising. A hopeful development of the past half decade of the Syria conflict has been the growth of dozens—even hundreds—of local Syrian groups and networks delivering aid inside Syria and their ability to get aid across the border from Turkey into Syria. These groups have become an essential element of assisting people inside Syria, especially in places the United Nations and INGOs cannot get to because of security concerns.
On March 18, the EU and Turkey will mark the one -year anniversary of their joint statement , which sought to stem the flows of asylum-seekers and migrants crossing from Turkey’s shores to the Greek islands. But as this anniversary approaches, Refugee International believes there little cause to celebrate and much more cause for concern. While EU leaders have presented the policy as a success, pointing to the significant decrease in the number of arrivals on the Greek islands since March 2016, the policy has also left thousands of refugees and asylum-seekers stranded in Greece in shocking conditions and has eroded the right to seek asylum in Europe.
Today’s deal between the European Union and Turkey marks a troubling precedent in the search for a principled and effective response to the refugee crisis confronting Europe. While Refugees International is relieved to see that the agreement appears to consider elements of respect for the right to seek asylum in Greece, we are concerned with the provision that states that the EU will return all new irregular migrants, an apparent contradiction that must be clarified. Serious legal, ethical, and moral questions remain about the implementation of the deal
There are many challenges confronting the international aid architecture, but one issue currently in the spotlight is the localization of aid. In short, the localization of aid is the trend of giving money directly to local NGOs or to a developing country’s government, rather than giving indirectly through international organizations. The goal is to support local structures, so that there may be real ownership at the local level – beyond national governments and international organizations.
On March 7th, European and Turkish leaders announced a breakthrough in agreeing to a framework for a possible deal on managing the flow of refugees and migrants arriving from Turkey onto Greece’s shores. If the framework is implemented as it has been presented, it appears that the deal would strike a major blow to refugee rights. Currently, a humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding in Greece, with deteriorating conditions for refugee arrivals who are attempting to transit through the country. European leaders and international actors should focus attention and resources on protecting and assisting refugees and asylum seekers, not trading away their rights in the hopes of preventing new arrivals.
Today marks the fifth anniversary of the Syria crisis. With more than half the country’s original population displaced and humanitarian access still restricted, it’s not obvious from a quick glance that there have been some positive changes in the past five years. When RI first started visiting Syria and the surrounding countries in 2012, there was relatively little appreciation for some of the basic facts: most Syrian refugees were not housed in camps, Syrian children and adolescents were missing out on multiple years of basic education, and local Syrian groups were providing significant amounts of humanitarian aid and services inside Syria
Turkey now hosts the largest population of Syrian refugees with 2.5 million registered. After two years of debate about whether Syrian refugees in Turkey should be eligible for work permits, the Turkish government has stated that some Syrians will be offered permission to work. The details are significant: Syrian refugees must be registered, must have been in the country for at least six months, and must apply for the permit in the province where they first registered, among other conditions.
As of this morning, the fourth international donor conference for Syria has generated $11 billion in pledges. The current appeal stands at almost $9 billion. This is the amount required to assist people inside Syria, as well as those in the nearby countries hosting the largest numbers of refugees. The size of the request has grown year after year, but so has the funding shortfall. If the commitments for 2016 are honored, there will be a chance to improve the support available to millions of Syrians in need. But along with money, donors and humanitarians need to further develop their approach to providing aid inside Syria, where access is not likely to improve much
Unlike a situation in which humanitarians meet refugees in the relative safety of camps at the end of their flight, Greece is just one stop on a long journey northward, where first responders have rescued people from drowning, watched dead bodies float onto shore, and embraced those celebrating a successful entry into Europe. The range of emotions is extreme, and then stories of horrific violence, hardship, and for many, disappointment follow.
Even after four years of field missions with Refugees International, I had never seen anything like it. Around midday, we were driving high along the hills of the northern coast of the Greek island Lesvos, with the Turkish mainland in the foreground. As we descended closer the shoreline, our interpreter pointed out little black specs, tinged with orange, that were dotting the sea. “Look over there! The boats are coming. The orange is from the life jackets.”
Last week’s events in Paris prompted, predictably, an immediate backlash regarding the resettlement of Syrian refugees, both in the United States and Europe. The should-we-or-shouldn’t-we question that has been a steady topic of debate among politicians, policymakers, and advocates for the past several years has taken a firm turn toward we shouldn’t after a Syrian passport was found near one of the attackers’ bodies. Calls to restrict and even stop resettlement of Syrians to the U.S. have come from public figures as diverse as a presidential candidate, leadership of the House of Representatives, and state governors. But the body of evidence regarding the risks of terrorism from a potential refugee resettlement program is not borne out.
I've just arrived in Greece to assess the situation for newly arriving refugees on the country’s outer islands. In a global context of increasingly harsh rhetoric that conflates refugees with security threats, we plan to gather first-hand stories from Syrian’s fleeing the ongoing and devastating war in Syria that has displaced a staggering 12 million people.