Each minute, 24 people around the world flee their home because of violence or persecution.~National Public Radio (USA)
Today the UN recognizes World Refugee Day. This is a day NOT to be celebrated because the world is witnessing the largest amount of displaced people since the United Nations emerged in 1942. Since writing this sentence and figuring out how to explain why 4.8 million Syrians became refugees while 6.5 million Syrians and 2. 4 million Yemenis are internally displaced, another 24 people have been made refugees. Of the 6.5 million Syrian refugees, the largest host country is Turkey with 2.5 million Syrian refugees. The #SyrianRefugee problem is due to –in order of chronology–the following violent events:
- the Assad regime’s military clampdown on activists and dissidents, which has led to the blacklisting and murder of journalists and Syrian activists;
- the resulting pushback by resistance fighter;
- the emergence of foreign fighters, mercenaries and DAESH/”Islamic State” of Iraq & the Levant; and
- the bombing campaigns by Russia that precipitated in September 2015. (Russia and Iran are allies of the authoritarian Assad regime.)
Asma Akhras, a PITAPAL we had interviewed for another project on the Syrian Diaspora project, has contributed a piece that focuses on the humanitarian challenges of Syrian refugees. Whether the story is repeated in Jordan, or Lebanon, Turkey, or Germany, the financial resource challenges remain the same.
We are in a white van used to transport Syrian refugees to medical facilities, and the driver has beads of sweat coming down his face. Serious looking with dark sunglasses and a clean white professional shirt, he’s focused on getting us to the emergency room of a nearby hospital as fast as he can.
We couldn’t wait for a taxi or an ambulance anymore. Dr. Naveed Iqbal is calmly sitting in the passenger seat focused on Khalid’s breathing, holding an asthma inhaler and thinking how to approach a variety of potential medical scenarios. I’m the interpreter, sitting in the back seat next to Khalid and his mom. Khalid is sitting on his mother’s lap. Her hands are wrapped securely around him, and he is quite overwhelmed. (We are not using Khalid’s last name because of his family’s concerns about their security.) Click here to continue on USA Today.
After reading PITAPAL’s, Asma Akhras, account of serving as an interpreter in the UN camp of Zataari, in Jordan, we ask that you apply pressure to your government to ask them how they’re honoring World Refugee Day. Especially if you have already donated time or money to alleviating the #SyrianRefugee humanitarian concerns, ask your government what’s their action plan… For example, many high-income countries refuse to offer a solution to mitigate the dilemma: 13.5 million people in Syria need humanitarian assistance due to the turmoil. According to Amnesty International:
- Gulf countries including Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain have offered zero resettlement places to Syrian refugees.
- Other high income countries including Russia, Japan, Singapore and South Korea have also offered zero resettlement places.
- Of those that escaped to Jordan, 86% of Syrian refugees in urban areas in Jordan are living below the local poverty line.
- Germany has pledged 39,987 places for Syrian refugees through its humanitarian admission programme and individual sponsorship; about 54% of the EU total.
- Germany and Serbia together have received 57% Syrian asylum applications in Europe between April 2011 and July 2015
- Excluding Germany and Sweden, the remaining 26 EU countries have pledged around 30,903 resettlement places, or around 0.7% of the Syrian refugee population in the main host countries
Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and who have significantly invested financially and politically into the Speaking of Arab Gulf countries failing to take in refugees, this applies to Yemeni refugees as well. (For example, the UAE has pledged $137 million in the last 4 Syria Donors Conferences. But here’s an idea: why not stop spending money on the weapons to supply foreign and local fighters in Syria? ) Here is the most ironic piece of refugee research we came across: Although Yemen is the poorest country in the Arab world, unlike its Arab Gulf neighbors, Yemen has signed on to the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol. At the same time, Saudi Arabia’s feud with the UN entails the Kingdom’s threat to withhold their funding commitments towards refugee and humanitarian assistance. We recommend picking one of two action items:
- For Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, and the UAE: Reach out to the consular offices or embassies of Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, and Oman and ask them when they will make good on their UNHCR pledges for the humanitarian crises. If they’ve done that, like the UAE, then follow up with: how will they ease restrictions to allow Syrians access to primary education if they have managed entry into their country.
- For Saudi Arabia: Rather than applying for a visa to perform Umrah or Hajj this year, ask the Saudi Counselor Officer to consider housing a Syrian or Yemeni refugee this year–or at least to stop facilitating the violence by arming fighters.
After today, every day is World Refugee Day for the over 65 million refugees reported by the UN — until June 20, 2017 arrives.