By Priyanjana R Das:
The refugee crisis ballooning in Europe right now is now considered by the United Nations to be its greatest since World War II.
Syrians, displaced internally and externally by the brutal fighting that has wrecked their country since the Arab Spring, are the largest group among those attempting to reach Europe. Including internal displacement, more than half of Syria’s population has been uprooted since the war began, and Syrians are almost single-handedly driving the recent uptick in displaced people around the world. Earlier, there was a large population of Syrians concentrated in Damascus whose population doubled in a year or two, because it was considered safer compared to other parts of Syria. But, there has been an ever-increasing external displacement now, leading to one of the biggest exoduses in Syria.
Lack of political consensus among members of the EU on handling the crisis has led to a rise in populist resistance to migration, and growth of anti-migration parties. The EU, which is hit by the euro crisis already, has not been able to take a firm stand on the migrant issue. As the President of the EU stated recently, there is not much union left in the European Union.
Supporters of mass migration say that migrants are a welcome boost for Europe’s flagging labour force. In Germany, there is a high demand for workers trained in mathematics, information technology, natural sciences and technology. Germany and Sweden have been the two most preferable countries for migrants, who mainly want to escape death and destruction in their war-torn countries and find a suitable place to reconstruct their lives.
They (the migrants) are not going to the Balkan states from Greece because the policy of Bulgaria and Macedonia is not very accommodative or welcoming to migrants. Even Turkish officials are now encouraging refugees to migrate to Europe from the borders of Turkey and Syria where they were parked for about two years or so. Turkey now wants to fight the ISIS and therefore, they want the Syrians to leave for Europe. Turkey also wants to control the Kurdish border in Syria. Turkey does not want the Syrians in the border to cooperate and unite with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has a conflict with Turkey because they want to secede and create an independent Kurdistan.
It is important here to bring NATO into the picture. There has been a decisive shift in policies of Western powers in attacking the ISIS. Earlier, they attacked ISIS positions in Iraq, but now they want to directly attack ISIS positions in Syria. Britain under David Cameron has started launching drones in Syria. There are a lot of wheels within the bigger wheel regarding this issue but at this hour of humanitarian crisis, it is important to shed all vested interests and insecurities and prioritize humanitarian values above all.
Bringing our attention to the Gulf countries, we can see that there has been an interesting case of sponsored smuggling of migrants from Syria and Iraq to Europe. Given an ideal situation, the gulf countries could have been a perfect host for the migrants, given that they are rich, stable, peaceful, have an ever developing workforce and all the resources to accommodate the refugees. But they refuse to take them in owing to religious differences which easily overpower the humanitarian crisis.
Syria holds 2/3 of the gas reserves on the Mediterranean Sea side, and the gas reserves in the Mediterranean Sea, in totality, hold the potential to become the number one producer of gas by 2020. Syria has the potential of producing 5 million barrels of oil in a day. Turkey is also said to have a vested interest in Aleppo which is a rising commercial center of Syria.
All the powers that have their interests and influence in this region must focus on the people instead of the value of potential energy the region holds. This attitude alone will solve a lot of the problems and will direct us towards finding the right solutions. The hypocrisy of the West in tackling issues in the Middle East has been well known by all and it is time to stop acting human and start being one.
Migration is seen to be a one-sided affair these days, given the migrants cannot return to their homes. UN agencies such as UNHCR, UNICEF and UNIFEM have been crucial in addressing human security issues such as refugees and rights of children. Full funding from the emergency budget of the UNHCR will help in dealing with this issue and measures must be taken in making the Mediterranean safe. This year, 2600 people lost their lives in the Mediterranean Sea and last year too around 3500 people died in the sea. Immediate humanitarian aid to all receiving and received refugees must be a policy developed by all countries.
Human security policy of a (any) country should not just look into the direct and indirect consequences of a conflict, but also at the range of socio-economic, political and ecological factors that contribute to the conflict. Such an understanding of human security will open the way for reconciling the two conceptions of human security as ‘freedom from fear’ and ‘freedom from want’. Overseas asylum process centers must be made available to all and there must be provision for granting refugee status to all Syrian refugee applicants which must also take care of where they want to get located further in the process of relocation from a transitional country. Addressing the refugee crisis is a contested concept, but it must be tackled from a humanitarian point of view.