Don’t bet on Aylan’s death sparking a major review of refugee crisis

Friday 11/09/2015

No donors have come forward to inject much-needed cash into a UN food programme for 4 million refugees.
It’s not only Europe that is growing weary of the Syrian refugee crisis, despite some individual EU members such as Germany showing that they are ready to take more refugees. The West as a whole — and certainly governments that habitually inject much-needed cash into the UN World Food Programme (WFP) to feed the 4 million or so refugees in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon — seems to be giving up as well.
Don’t be fooled by Germany and even Iceland’s bid to host refugees. There has never been greater apathy towards paying essential money to feed some 4 million refugees. And Germany’s outreached hand, following the tragic iconic images of the drowned Syrian toddler, merely underlines how inept the Euro­pean Union is as a foreign policy power.
The boy’s death has covered up the West’s fatigue over the Syria crisis. EU mandarins will be angered by the death of Aylan Kurdi as it compounds the point as to how weak Brussels is. There are meetings planned for an emergency council, providing an opportunity for talk but who knows what on action. The European-friendly media in Brussels fails to mention in their “reporting” that the European Union can only suggest policies.
The deaths of the Kurdi family members are further reminders that the West’s political machin­ery has failed the Syrian people, not only from a humanitarian standpoint but also from a geopolitical one. Let us not forget that Syrian President Bashar Assad is allowed to stay in power by Europe and the United States.
And while the cameras and flashbulbs point towards the Syrian refugees a “minor detail” of news will probably not make it to the front pages: the West can no longer feed the Syrian refu­gees.
Since spring, the United Nations has been telling journal­ists in Beirut that money is running out for the UN food programme. The cash-strapped WFP has had to drop one-third of Syrian refugees from its food voucher scheme in Middle Eastern host countries, including 229,000 in Jordan who stopped receiving food aid in September, a spokeswoman said September 4th.
“This is a crisis that has been brewing in the region for five years,” said Abeer Etefa, a WFP regional spokeswoman. “Now it is getting the attention of the world because it moved one step further from the region to Europe. We have to help people where they are or they will move.”
But if Europe continues with its confused policy on immigration, then more harrowing scenes of dead toddlers are about to hit the screens almost on a daily basis. The European Union acted too late to stop the boats from leaving Libya, as one example, and has shown no real dynamism in galvanising EU members’ policy towards the plight of the refu­gees. That despondency led to a spike in the number of those making the crossing towards Europe across the Mediterranean or overland via Turkey, before a sea crossing to Greece.
And now that there is a very real food crisis in the camps of Turkey, Syria and Jordan, the number of those wishing to cross is going to double again, largely down to the stinginess of Western donors — and the super mean­ness, let’s not forget, of Gulf Arab states who have taken not one refugee since the war started in 2011.
The UN agency has been distributing food vouchers to refugees since the beginning of the Syria crisis but is facing increasing funding gaps. “Since the beginning of this operation, it has been hand-to-mouth,” said Etefa. “It is nerve-wracking for the refugees and the staff.”
She said the agency needs $236 million to keep the spartan programme funded through November.
No major donors have come forward, she said.
Meanwhile the father of Aylan has received news that his once-rejected application for asylum in Canada has been accepted. He refused the offer, grieving in Kobane where he buried his two children and wife who all drowned. Perhaps his tragic loss will spark a major rethinking of the Syrian refugee crisis. But don’t hold your breath.