Syrian Refugees Demand Attention

By Shannon Neal

Elm Staff Writer

Since the 2011 outbreak of war in Syria, millions of people have fled the country seeking refuge. Neighboring Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan currently hold the largest numbers of refugees: Lebanon has about 1.7 million, Turkey about 1.9 million, and Jordan about 600 thousand. As there are approximately four million Syrian refugees displaced from their homes, those three small countries have and are doing more than the rest of the world. Unfortunately, they cannot adequately provide for that many people. They’re simply overwhelmed. The United Nations’ World Food Program is bankrupt and people are starving, shelter is basic and limited, and refugees are looking towards finding new homes.

Desperate refugees fleeing Syria gather for protest outside Lebanon’s closed borders.
Desperate refugees fleeing Syria gather for protest outside Lebanon’s closed borders.

With living conditions unacceptable in their current countries, refugees have decided to travel to  Europe by crossing the Mediterranean Sea, landing in Greece and Italy, and moving north. After escaping war, refugees face danger and death on the sea, and extremely unwelcoming and hateful people on land. The governments of most countries are hesitant to help, if not completely against it. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to build a wall to keep out refugees fleeing death and violence. Prime Minister Orban of Hungary wanted a razor wire fence to control the steady stream of refugees that enter Hungary daily. Conservatives sure do have a fondness for fences. Even individual citizens are full of hate; one disheartening incident occurred about a week ago in Germany when a building meant to house Syrian refugees was burnt to the ground. Everywhere Islamophobia is rearing its ugly head.

Not everyone is as inhumane and deplorable. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany is an example of compassion. Germany has an open door policy for all asylum seekers fleeing the war. In the next year, Germany is expected to take in about 800 thousand refugees. Merkel has also put together a multi-million euro plan to aid and provide for the upcoming new population of Syrians. Austria too has an open door policy, and other countries are beginning to come up with plans to take in refugees over the span of years. The UK has promised to accept 20 thousand Syrian refugees over the next five years. France has pledged to take in 24 thousand over the next two years.

This is a start, but much more needs to be done. As Chancellor Merkel said, “Europe as a whole must move on this.” The European Union has been pushing members to take in refugees, and pull their share of the weight. Is it really such a burden and inconvenience to help save lives?

Even outside of Europe, countries need to help. Many Rich Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Qatar, and Bahrain are refusing refugees. The US only recently raised the number of refugees it is accepting to 100 thousand in the next three years. Many other non European states are doing less or nothing. Monetary donations to provide aid are falling short as well. People are ignoring the plight of Syrians. Providing shelter and aid to fleeing victims of war is a vital thing that we all as human beings should be fighting for. This is not just a European problem. This is a worldwide problem.

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