Roosevelt Institute | Cornell University

An Exodus with no Destination

By Marc GetzoffPublished October 2, 2015

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The improvised responses by European leaders towards the Syrian refugee crisis has revealed the inability and nativity the European governments hold towards humanitarian crises.

It is apparent that the leaders of the European and western governments did not anticipate the mass refugee crisis occurring now or chose to not adequately prepare. This represents a significant lack in the humanitarian capabilities and responsibilities of western nations.

 The Syrian Civil War, which began in 2011 with insurgent rebel groups forming to remove the Assad regime from power, has produced a mass exodus from the country with over 4.1 million people fleeing the war-torn nation since its beginning. Most have settled in neighboring Turkey (2.1 million), Lebanon (1.1 million), and Jordan (600,000) with many others fleeing to Egypt and Iraq. Turkey has actively invested in handling the refugees before they arrived, having had a similar experience with the refugees from the Iraq War. Lebanon and Jordan have been more overwhelmed due to their smaller populations. However, hundreds of thousands have fled into Europe to seek asylum or safety from the deadly violence and destruction. Amongst European nations, there have been varied responses regarding the number of refugees they are willing accept.

Germany has led the way in offering asylum as well as pressuring other nations to take in more refugees. Germany, being a de facto leader of the European Union and a large determinant of EU social policy, has set forth relatively high quotas of numbers of refugees to accept. In order to effectively help the refugees, the German government has attempted to provide shelter, food, water, and emergency services through critical aid projects. Hungary, however, has tried to deter refugees, relying on police action and forced refugees to wait in terrible conditions.

Despite this diversity across responses, it is evident that the governments did not prepare their countries for this spree of displaced people. The lack of preparation demonstrates a severe lack of foresight and either a reluctance or ignorance to the growing conflict and its consequences. The Syrian Civil War is only the latest of violent conflicts that have caused mass refugee crisis. Currently, there are over 60 million displaced peoples with most coming from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Syria, and South Sudan. Clearly, large pro-longed conflicts create humanitarian and refugees crises. It is time that western governments and those in Europe put in place significant humanitarian preparations such as constructed housing, food services, mobile medical care, and fast-tracked asylum applications.

The idea that conflict forces refugees to flee their country is neither new nor debatable. It occurs and should be considered when determining domestic policy measures. Humanitarian policies need to be placed on the front page of legislation, proposals, and petitions.