We need a comprehensive planby Neil Quilliam, Pari Ibrahim / October 6, 2015 / Leave a comment
This week Turkish President Recip Tayyip Erdogan met EU officials to discuss how Europe can better deal with the refugee crisis. Turkish officials have routinely criticised the EU for considering it “their” refugee crisis, even though Turkey has so far accommodated more than two million Syrians.
This critique has some merit. No matter how many Syrians the EU allows to cross its borders, the majority of displaced people will remain within Syria or its neighbouring states. Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan, whose refugee crisis started over four years ago, have not had the luxury of debating how many to admit across their borders. Jordan and Lebanon have absorbed over 1.6m refugees between them. The expansion of Islamic State has resulted in the displacement of 3m in Iraq, with over 1.5m Internally Displaced Persons concentrated in the Kurdish region alone, which has placed an enormous strain on resources. There is a growing risk that these communities will reach breaking point as the flow of people increases.
Last month David Cameron announced that Britain would take 20,000 Syrian refugees over five years. The first of these 20,000 have now arrived on British shores. But that does not absolve the government of its moral responsibility towards all communities affected by the Syrian conflict, including refugees and internally displaced populations.The UK, therefore, needs to show leadership, think long-term and focus its efforts on encouraging the international community as a whole to provide sustainable support to both host governments and affected communities.
There are five tangible ways in which the UK government can provide direct support to help host governments and refugee and IDP communities:
It should relieve some of the pressure on Syria’s neighbours by showing moral courage and working with the EU to accommodate more than 120,000 refugees over two years. It is difficult to persuade Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan to keep their borders open when they have already received over 4m refugees, while the EU quibbles over so few. Cameron’s pledge to offer 20,000 places over five years amounts to Britain’s 433 local authorities receiving nine Syrians a year—hardly a “swarm.”
The UK must ensure sufficient financial support for host governments to provide education (primary, secondary and tertiary), healthcare…