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Global 21 fourth quarter 2015

Arena Immigration A place to call home The Syrian conflict shows no signs of abating and half of the country’s population is now displaced, creating the largest volume of refugees since World War II Katie Silvester While the world’s politicians search for a workable solution to the Syrian refugee crisis, millions of asylum seekers are languishing in makeshift camps, or sleeping rough on the streets, waiting for hostilities to end. More than half of Syria’s pre-war population of 23 million is currently displaced and, while some have found shelter in other parts of Syria, many more have crossed borders into neighbouring countries or are en route to Europe in search of a fresh start. The majority of Syrian refugees have taken shelter in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan – by September Jordan had 629,245 refugees, Turkey 1,938,999 and Lebanon 1,172,753. This means that one in five people living in Lebanon are refugees, while Jordan’s Za’atari camp is now the country’s third largest city. Those who flee are escaping not just the fighting in their towns and cities, but also human rights abuses and a lack of basic necessities, including food and medical care. Most are also leaving without much paperwork. Many Syrians do not have passports and for those who did, the deteriorating political situation since the start of the civil war has made it difficult to renew passports or to acquire visas to leave the country through official channels. Hence why so many Syrians, along with asylum seekers from other countries facing difficult conditions, have been risking their lives by getting into boats heading from Turkey to Greece, Italy or Malta, in order to apply for asylum in Europe. It is this swell of people travelling through Europe to try to get to the West that has brought the situation to international headlines. “Even Syrians call the boats to Europe ‘death’ boats,” says Rory O’Keeffe, journalist and author of The Toss of a Coin: Voices of a Modern Crisis. “They know that the boats sink and they know that if theirs sinks they’re likely to drown. But they’re that desperate to get out so they can start again that they will give it a go to give themselves an opportunity.” Although Jordan, Lebanon or Turkey may seem like a more obvious destination for a refugee from Syria than Europe, none of Aerial view of Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan. The camp was set up by the Jordanian government and UNHCR, the United Nations’ refugee agency four 38 l www.global -br ief ing.org th quar ter 2015 global


Global 21 fourth quarter 2015
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