An unsafe boat ride through the rough and stormy waters of the Mediterranean with the risk of being lost to the sea, a march lasting hundreds of kilometers in Turkey’s scorching heat with the possibility of starvation, or spending life savings on a smuggler to get out the of country. All of these are journeys that are undertaken by Syrian refugees who flee from the death, destruction, and suffering brought to them by the Syrian civil war. This explosion of refugees has caused one of the biggest crisis in recent history and it’s not getting better. In fact it continues to worsen because of the lack of action by the international community to play their parts and help the Syrian people. The world superpowers fail to aid the people of Syria and exploit the conflict in hopes of achieving their own hidden agendas, and to make matters worse, they have not yet found an effective way to deal with this outpour of refugees from the war torn country. To understand this crisis, it is important to take a look at what the Syrian civil war is first.
Unrest started in Syria in early 2011 because citizens were not happy with the country’s high unemployment rate, corruption and lack of freedom along with many other things. Uprisings in other Arab nations like Egypt and Tunisia gave the Syrian people hope that they could create change. They took to the streets to express their dissatisfaction and anger and started mass protests across the country demanding that president Bashar al-Assad to step down. The protesters were met with crackdowns by the government killing hundreds and placing many more in prison. Defectors from the army along with protestors took up arms and formed various rebel groups to fight against the government and the country fell into civil war. The war has had severe consequences on the country and its people. It has caused the life expectancy of Syrians to drop from 75.9 years prior to the war to about 55.7 years now according to “Syria: Alienation and Violence, Impact of the Syria Crisis” a report published by the Syrian center for policy research. The economy of Syria has also been severely damaged: the war has caused a cumulative loss of $226 billion worth of gross domestic product, about quadruple the Syrian gross domestic product in 2010 (World Bank). The quality of life in Syria has decreased dramatically, and the dangers and hardships of war have driven many Syrian families out of the country in hopes to find safety and freedom. More than 5 million refugees have fled the war and have flooded into neighboring and European countries. This has caused massive problems as these countries are being filled to capacity and have not yet found a way to deal with these refugees which has lead to this crisis.
This problem is made worse by the international community: they have not done enough to aid the Syrian people and stop their war. When the conflict started in 2011 the world did very little to provide fast effective aid to the people in need. This slow response was caused by many reasons, one reason was the lack of funding by governments which delayed the process of help reaching the people as a sufficient amount of money was needed to jump start and support the humanitarian operations. Another reason was the lack of security provided for the humanitarian workers by governments. The amount of resources that were provided for the protection of the workers were minimal, sometimes leaving them with no security at all. With some opposition groups even targeting aid workers this lack of security made humanitarian work in Syria very hard and scarce and left hundreds of thousands of people hungry, sick, or wounded. In February 2014, the United Nations passed Resolution 2139. This resolution gave hope to the Syrian people as it called for increased humanitarian aid to be delivered and demanded acts of violence on civilians from all sides to end. This important resolution was a great start to the process of helping the people of Syria end their suffering. However parties involved in the conflict, the U.N security council, and other member states have failed to act on the resolution and have thus far just ignored it. Since the start of the war there have been many ceasefires, negotiations, and U.N meetings like Resolution 2139. However little progress has been made and millions of people are still sick, injured, or hungry all while facing the possibility of unlawful attacks by parties, leaving them with no other choice but to run.
Not only are the world countries doing little to find an outcome for this war, they are further complicating the conflict by trying to achieve their own hidden agenda. Many regional and world powers have gotten involved in the conflict and taken sides, and new countries are getting involved every year. The Syrian government is backed by Russia and Iran while the opposing rebel groups are backed by the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. This has lead to many new proxy wars forming with Syria as the stage, these proxy wars have the potential of even starting more conflict and will not help the path to peace. The proxy war between Israel and Iran almost lead to a full on conflict between the two countries when an Iranian drone flew into Israeli air space through Syria. Israel responded by carrying out airstrikes on Iranian and Syrian military positions with the Syrians shooting down one of the Israeli aircraft during the process, thus bringing the possibility of a full war to an all time high. Another proxy war is taking place between the United States and Turkey. Although both countries support the rebel groups opposing the Syrian regime, Turkey is dissatisfied with the U.S support of the Kurdish people, an ethnicity living in parts of Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Turkey. During Syria’s state of war, terror groups such as ISIS have been able to build up forces and become stronger through the chaos. To combat this the United States started training and providing support for anti-ISIS forces, one of these forces were the Kurdish. Turkey has always viewed the Kurdish poorly as the ethnicity has a history of separatist movements in hopes of separating from Turkey. So when the U.S announced that it was helping the Kurdish forces, Ankara was irate and started a military operation attacking the Kurdish forces in Syria igniting a new proxy war against the U.S. The United states is also involved in perhaps the biggest proxy war in Syria, and that is against Russia. Russia supports the Syrian government while the U.S supports the rebel groups. The two longtime rivals have been accusing one another of unlawful airstrikes and have been supplying their respective sides with weapons, further destabilizing the conflict. As a member of the U.N security council’s big five Russia has even gone as far as vetoing resolutions that the U.N passes that are unfavorable for their Syrian allies in the government. These new complications and proxy battles caused by other countries’ politics has delayed the process for finding a solution to the war and is causing the crisis to worsen.
The world powers have yet to find an effective way to deal with the refugees who are already out of Syria. While some refugees have settled down and began a new life, millions are still living in inhumane conditions or stranded in countries with no place to go. With Asia and the Americas accepting little to no refugees, the burden is set on European and neighbouring countries of Syria. Border countries with Syria like Turkey and Egypt are at full capacity and the flow of refugees have not slowed down. This has caused formations of huge camps where thousands of refugees live with lack of proper sanitation, poor healthcare, and little food. European countries are also experiencing the impact of the refugees as well; such as Germany and Hungary. Some countries just simply do not have the funds to keep all these refugees so they have closed down their borders making Syrian refugees travel longer, more dangerous routes to get to Europe. One of these routes is crossing the Mediterranean sea. About one in eighteen refugees die while crossing the Mediterranean leading to thousands of deaths each year (UNHCR). This inability to find an effective solution to deal with these refugees has created a bottleneck of refugees as more and more refugees arrive each day, worsening the crisis.
The millions of Syrians who have fled their country in search for a better life have been too much for the international community to handle. This crisis will not be solved until nations find a way to deal with the refugees and provide aid and security for those who are still stuck within Syria, but most importantly, countries need to put their politics aside and help the people of Syria on a human level with no agenda. Until the world can do that, it will not be able to fix this problem and it will continue to deteriorate.
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