Help for refugees in Jordan is focused almost exclusively on Syrians. Researchers Izza Leghtas and Dina Baslan make a plea for Yemenis, Somalis, and Sudanese not to be forgotten.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights makes clear the right of every human being to seek safety in another country. But eight years into the Syrian conflict, this most basic of human rights barely matters because there is so little leeway for people to leave Syrian territory in the first place. If the international community truly wants to help Syrians, it must insist that Syria’s neighbors open their borders, and it needs to offer financial, technical and humanitarian assistance to make that happen.
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.
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.
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.
As of November 19, more than 850,000 refugees and migrants arrived by sea into Europe this year, and more than 80 percent of them — around 735,000 — through Greece. While the majority are Syrian, there are also asylum seekers from many countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Iran, Somalia, and Morocco. In addition to war, people are fleeing poverty, indignities, and persecution. Images of dead bodies washing ashore shocked the world. But the persistently poor assumption that the European Union was capable of a coherent, humane, and well-resourced response resulted in delay upon delay by the usual international humanitarian actors.
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.