Syrian refugees still deserve attention
This is the seventh year running that Syrian refugees are in the news.
Just days ago, the United Nations’ humanitarian coordination branch said escalating violence in north-western Syria caused more than 200,000 displacements since mid-December.
The new wave of displaced men, women and children is making the precarious situation of Syria’s refugees even worse, especially in the inclement days of winter.
The Reuters news agency reported that nine Syrians “froze to death” in the Lebanese mountains near the Syrian border. Five others were rescued near a border crossing with Syria.
It is hardly surprising that 2018 has begun this way. The Syrian conflict, which began in late 2011, continues to force people to flee their homes within Syria and outward to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and beyond.
As of March 2017, the UN refugee agency estimated more than 5 million Syrians had fled their country and 6.3 million were displaced internally.
Turkey, which is host to 3 million Syrian refugees, expressed concern about a new wave of migration from Idlib, near its southern border. This, because Bashar Assad’s regime has begun a new offensive in the rebel-held region without taking steps to protect vulnerable civilians.
There was yet more bad news about Syrian refugees in the first weeks of 2018. A Syrian man set himself on fire outside a UN office in Lebanon, desperate to draw attention to his family’s plight because their aid had been cut off.
From Jordan came the belated assurance of one-off humanitarian aid to at least 45,000 Syrian refugees stranded for months near the Rukban border crossing and, based on their survey of conditions faced by 1.5 million refugees in Lebanon, three UN agencies declared the Syrians’ plight was far worse than at the beginning of the crisis.
From 2015, the unfolding Syrian refugee crisis has triggered a massive alarm in the West, with the issue serving as a favourable factor in the rise of the far right in France, the Netherlands, Austria, Germany and several other European countries.
Syrian refugees are a people who have been forced to leave home and hearth for no fault of theirs. Mostly, they have found uncertain refuge in inadequate camps and informal settlements in countries that barely welcome them. They are truly a dispossessed people.
Syria, as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, has said, is the biggest humanitarian and refugee crisis of our time. Everyone is diminished by the Syrians’ continuing tragedy.