Syrians: In Need of a Home

Lucille Tsao, Contributing Writer

The Syrian refugee crisis is considered the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II. According to the European Commission, an estimated number of people in need of humanitarian assistance inside Syria has reached 13.5 million, more than half of which are children. The massive displaced population is the result of Syria’s violent civil war, which began in 2011. The civil war is brutal; bombs have wiped out cities and towns, and violence has resulted in a death toll of over 220,000. Countless civilians have lost their homes and are denied access to food and medical care. Many were subject to rape and sexual violence and used as human shields during conflicts.

As the Syrian conflict continues and living conditions deteriorate, Syrians have fled from the violence at home to seek a safer and better life. According to the UN’s refugee agency, five host countries have absorbed the majority of the 4.1 million refugees: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt. In Lebanon, a smaller country with limited resources, 1 in 5 people is a Syrian refugee. In addition, Turkey leads in the number of accepted refugees, now hosting more than 1.9 million.

The Syrian refugee crisis attracted international spotlights when large number of refugees embarked on a dangerous trip by crossing the Mediterranean Sea from Turkey into European nations. Many drowned in the sea en route to Greece. The shocking image of the 3-year-old Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, drew outpouring sympathy of the suffering of refugees from around the world. These high profile incidents sparked debates over the role and responsibility of European nations and other wealthier nations in this humanitarian crisis. On the one hand, there has been a call for greater responsibility by the wealthy nations to host more refugees. Germany and Sweden are the two leading European countries that admit large numbers of refugees, and the EU has committed 4.1 billion total for relief and recovery assistance to Syrian refugee crisis. On the other hand, many nations are reluctant to host refugees, arguing that this will overwhelm their resources and threaten national security. Hungary, for example, has erected a border fence to barricade refugees from entry. The recent Paris terrorist attack is likely to make the admission and situation of refugees more challenging, even though refugees can also be victims of ISIS in Syria.

How has the United States been involved in the humanitarian crisis? First, the U.S. has provided $4.5 billion in financial assistance to crisis relief. In September, President Obama announced that America would take in 1,500 more refugees for resettlement by September next year and at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next fiscal year. In addition, many Americans have committed to helping the refugees through means such as volunteering and donation. International Rescue Committee (IRC), MercyCorps, and CARE are just a few examples of non-profit organizations working on Syrian refugee crisis relief. A wealthy American businessman, Christopher Catrambone, funds another unique non-profit organization, Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS). MOAS conducts rescue missions in the Mediterranean Sea. All these efforts are aimed at providing refugees safer journey to host countries, food and clean water, shelter, clothing, and medical needs.

The Syrian refugee crisis is a complex and difficult case. As there is no end to the Syrian civil war in sight, there could be many more refugees fleeing from persecution and terror in the future. A report called What Americans really think about the Syrian refugee crisis, published by Brookings Institute, argues that Americans are sharply divided by Obama’s new refugee policy. As one Morris Hills student said, “I think 1500 is too small an amount for America. As a world power, it should be responsible for more.”  On the other hand, another student stated, “I don’t see a problem with it at first glance.” Nonetheless, Americans’ views toward U.S. role in providing humanitarian assistance are in solid consensus – there is little more important than providing measures necessary to end the human suffering and misery!