Amnesty International has begun the campaign #OpenToSyria, in the hope that we can encourage governments to offer resettlement to some of the 3.8 million Syrian refugees currently residing in Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, Jordan and Egypt. These refugees are failing to receive the care they desperately need.
Amnesty has put a human face onto this crisis, in the report Hardship, Hope, and Resettlement: Refugees from Syria tell their stories. The stories are truly harrowing. For example, the story of Qasim, ‘he and his daughter both suffer from elephantiasis’ a disease in which parts of the body swell. They ‘are unable to find proper treatment. The condition has caused his leg to swell abnormally. He is desperate to ensure his daughter can be treated “I am waiting to die,” he says, “I really don’t care if I get treated but I want my daughter to get treated”’. And the story of Hamood a gay man who ‘now lives in Jordan where he faces threats and routine harassment on the streets…He is hoping to be resettled in Europe where he can live as an openly gay man without fear of harassment and fulfil his dreams of finding a job and falling in love.’
However, the current actions of most western nations suggest that the basic needs of these people are failing to be met. In early December, the World Food Programme announced that it had ‘been forced to suspend food aid to 1.7 million refugees due to a funding crisis.’ Thankfully, funding has since increased. As of last Sunday, Britain pledged a further £100 million in support to provide medical care, food and relief items. Hopefully, this will ensure that Qasim and his daughter receive the attention they require.
However, money is not enough to completely ease this suffering. As Amnesty International’s Head of Refugee and Migrants’ Rights, Sheri Elsayad-Ali has stated, “Countries cannot ease their consciences with cash pay-outs then simply wash their hands of the matter.” Resettlement is required. The above mentioned nations are being overwhelmed by refugees; the population of Lebanon has increased by 26 per cent since the onset of Syria’s Civil War. This sort of dramatic population increase has resulted in the imposition of ‘severe restrictions on the entry of refugees in recent months leaving many trapped in Syria at serious risk of abuses by government forces or at the hands of the group that calls itself the Islamic State (IS).’ Only two nations of the European Union have actively sought to offer resettlement to Syrian refugees, Denmark and Germany. Britain has accepted an insignificant 90 refugees. This is shocking considering that wealthy nations are failing to act on their ‘international obligation as set out in the 1951 Refugee Convention.’ The international community must work together to overcome this humanitarian crisis, offering more than just some financial relief. Syria’s local nations cannot be relied upon solely.
On Monday 23rd February, UCLU Amnesty International Society will be hosting a collaborative debate with debating, UNICEF, and Student Action for Refugees on ‘This house believes the U.K. should accept unlimited refugees from Syria’, speaking at the debate will be Jan Shaw from Amnesty’s refugee team. Please come along and decide whether you think we should #OpenToSyria.
Amnesty urges rich nations to host Syrian refugees: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/02/report-urges-rich-nations-host-syrian-refugees-150204075247267.html
Hardship, Hope and Resettlement: Refugees from Syria tell their stories: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/MDE24/004/2015/en/72f52f74-59a6-4806-b71e-37858d531d98/mde240042015en.pdf
The world’s pitiful response to Syria’s refugee crisis: http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/world-s-pitiful-response-syria-s-refugee-crisis-2014-12-05
UK pledges £100m extra for Syrian Refugees: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/08/uk-pledges-100m-pounds-syrian-refugees
Untold stories of Syria’s most vulnerable refugees: http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/untold-stories-syria-s-most-vulnerable-refugees-2015-02-04