While a considerable amount of media coverage has focused on the Syrian refugee crisis in Europe, overlooked are those refugees settling in Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon. Between these three countries, over 3.5 million of the 4.1 million total refugees have relocated, with 2.5 million in Turkey alone. These countries are struggling to fully integrate refugees; with the creation of refugee cities such as the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan which boasts a refugee population of over 120,000 making it the fourth largest city in Jordan. In Turkey, two thirds of Syrian children are not attending school according to a report from Human Rights Watch.In Lebanon conditions are at a critical point as a new U.N. report highlights numerous problems refugees face such as a lack of employment and food. All of these issues, geographically alienating a population, lack of inclusion in state programs, and failing living conditions, not only highlight the failures of the host countries but the struggles of the refugee experience.
Problems surrounding the refugee crisis stem from two causes. A poor showing of international funding and a general lack of response. Last year the U.N.’s emergency appeal for international funding for Syrian refugees fell short, only 56 percent of the requested $8.4 billion was met. All but one nation, the U.K., failed to give what the poverty and civil rights group Oxfam deemed their ‘fair share’ in the first part of 2015. In the later half of the year, the U.S. committed a total of $1.6 billion to aid refugees, falling short of our ‘fair share’ set just over $2 billion. The U.S. has moved slowly on this issue which has been brewing for five years. We’ve been apprehensive to accept refugees, even though they pose little security threat, and we have not taken a leadership role in this refugee crisis. The U.S. has instead focused its efforts in Syria looking to end the conflict. The conflict is an entirely different issue but the U.S. cannot simply ignore the most dire consequence of the conflict: the large outflow of refugees. While a cease fire has been agreed upon, the complete resolution of the conflict appears further away. Given the horrendous conditions of refugee camps due to a lack of funding and support from the international community, that same international community must wake up to the reality that the refugees are not going anywhere. The vendetta is the U.S. must generate a substantial response to the refugee crisis as we are involved in the root cause of the conflict and our response to this point has been inadequate to say the least.
Currently the U.S. has pledged to take in at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in 2016. But that alone is not enough. European nations are better suited to handle the crisis but must also step up to the plate with minimal U.S. guidance. It’s the countries of Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and the refugees in those countries which are in dire situations.
To resolve what was alluded to in my previous article, potential consequences of keeping refugees in camps neither settled nor integrated into the host country, I present the following.
Although this field of study is limited, there have been conclusions drawn from Amanda Ekey that, “research has demonstrated that an increase in the number of refugees a country hosts leads to an increase in the activities of terrorist groups based in that country”. In that same breath, “It has also shown that this connection is weakened when refugee populations receive aid from international humanitarian organizations”. An explanation to this connection can be terrorist cells continuing the exploitation of an already vulnerable people creates an image of violence and instability as a result of that population. Considering the information from this study, how do we move forward? How can the U.S. respond in a way which addresses the problems of all parties involved? As noted in my previous article, the argument against letting refugees into the United States are based in security concerns which I conclude as being unfounded. At the same time, the U.S. is not even providing the proper funds on their behalf, nor calling on other countries who fail to do so as well. The result is this perfect storm of reluctance to assist through resettling more refugees in the U.S., a failure to integrate refugees in host countries thus causing refugees to face difficult to atrocious conditions in camps, and a lack of funding that can be linked to increased terror activities. The fear of security concerns is creating what is feared. A failure to act has created a paradox.
Elizabeth Ferris, a senior fellow in foreign policy for the Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C., wrote a piece detailing several possible scenarios of what might happen to Syrian refugees in surrounding countries. What she feels is most likely to happen is refugees remain in the current limbo, not quite allowed full state services from the countries they are in, nor being asked to leave. This situation assumes diminishing financial support, when paired with the Ekey study and given recent terror attacks in both Turkey and Lebanon, Ekey’s conclusion bears weight. Less aid creates desperation and instability when elongated for several years, but certainty and policy aimed at assisting those most vulnerable will create safety for everyone. This can only happen if the U.S. becomes more involved in the collateral damage of the conflict we are involved in. The U.S. must be vocal in assisting the U.N acquire funds to aid refugees, donate their fair share using Oxfam as a benchmark (estimated at just over $2 billion), and begin to take in more refugees for resettlement. Oxfam calculates the number of each country’s ‘fair share’ of refugees by looking at the size of their economy, this pegs the United States’ fair share at just over 160,000 Syrian refugees. Working more closely with the surrounding countries to better integrate refugees into their countries and alleviating some of their stress by resettling more in our own country can ensure better living conditions, proper schooling for refugee children, better employment opportunities for refugees, as well as shoring up security fears in the region. These kinds of commitments would require consistent financial support, a potential point of blowback, but if the U.S. continues pouring resources into the cause of the refugee crisis in Syria, which is likely, they should also be willing to aid them through any means necessary. These solutions would also require a focused response from the United States, currently we are failing on that front. Kemal Kirişci gives this final insight, “At a time when the international community has so miserably failed in assisting refugees… putting into place a credible resettlement program could inspire some hope for the future of international governance. Such an expression of solidarity would make it easier for the governments and civil societies of countries hosting the bulk of the refugees to continue to do so”.
Poor funding and lack of real international response have created numerous problems for refugees. While the U.S. has failed to provide an adequate response, the international community as a whole must step up to either provide the funding necessary or integrate refugees into their own countries at a proper rate.
Although not mentioned in this article, given the circumstances, Turkey has done a commendable job handling the huge flow of refugees as discussed in this piece: Link
Head over to Move.org to sign this petition urging the United States Government to resettle more Syrian refugees: Link
The Brookings Institute held a discussion looking at the moral dimensions and practical solutions to the global refugee crisis: Link