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Syrian Refugee Crisis

‘We’ refers to the countries willing to absorb and support Syrian refugees fleeing from war-torn Syria. Some of the countries with the highest numbers of Syrian refugees include Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. This paper analyzes the Syrian Refugee crisis in the Middle-East region. As the main receiving countries are Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon, this study will be divided into three different sections. They will tackle the issue of refugees and local communities in each country, the interplay between the United States and Russia in the issue and consequently the current level of actions taken to face the occurring problems. Heisbourg (2015) perfectly highlights the general position of the literature regarding the reasons behind the potential conflicts between locals and refugees. He notes that in the case of Jordan and Lebanon, the main reasons behind these conflicts are structural vulnerabilities, differences in religions, cultures and social norms. He also describes the proximate causes such as housing, competition over jobs, and access to education and media. These reasons tend to drive social tensions between the two sides.
In Jordan’s case, while socio-economics plays a huge role in exerting conflicts, media is identified as the main element in creating the negative image of the Syrian refugees. While tensions are felt over various needs for survival, some positive aspects can be found in between the cracks in Jordan’s case. Due to the geographic positions, the cities of Ramtha (Jordan) and Dara’a (Syria) have been connected by traditional ties, such as tribal and economic ties, which provide the Syrian refugee’s protection in certain host communities in Jordan. As a result, there are no historical grievances that would require attention, unlike Lebanon’s case.
Bican, (2016) explained that one way to increase the importance of the refugees in the country would be international obligations. Despite the fact that Jordan has a relatively progressive stance regarding refugees, it did not sign the UN’s 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its additional 1967 protocol. As so, Jordan has no legal obligations to allow Syrians to enter their territory, or provide access to education and healthcare. International obligations, such as the U.N’s legal framework might change Jordan’s stance in the refugee crisis.
Mercy cops and other actors have been important players in helping Jordan with the refugees. Development programs that would engage Syrian and Jordanian leaders within their communities, alongside the cooperation with local authorities can provide a means of solving conflicts between the two sides. Furthermore, while many other recommendations can be found to improve the relations between Syrians and Jordanians, an important suggestion was offered: partnering with the media, as it would allow debunking various myths that criminalize the refugees.
While most of the literature supports the actions mentioned above in neutralizing conflicts, Hamid (2015) proposes few more steps that could reduce conflict threats. They suggest that there should be a higher cooperation in defense and intelligence between Jordan and the U.S., as it would strengthen Jordan’s capabilities in surveilling Southern Syria. Also, it should establish a real safe zone, where the Americans and their allies could fully support the Syrian refugees.
One way to decrease future conflicts between refugees and local host communities is by targeting the youth from both sides. It was shown that by promoting projects that target the young generation, it becomes possible to change their views, perceptions, and raise their confidence level, to stimulate interaction between both sides which will in turn help in overcoming the differences. Additionally, this kind of projects would allow the younger generations, to a certain extent, to develop a different understanding than their parents in regards to the differences between the locals and the refugees.
Moreover, it is important to take into consideration the needs of the local Lebanese communities and the Syrian refugees. By supporting various workshops and training, Lebanese locals and Syrian refugees could exchange their vocational skills that would enhance collaboration instead of competition for employment. Conducting various activities would bring children from both sides closer together. The empowerment of citizens with advocacy abilities, municipalities and mayors would improve the efficiency of cooperation not only between institutions and NGO’s but also between all the 25 organizations that are working on the crisis (Arcos González et al., 2016).
Another method to evade conflict between the two sides is to meet their needs. The NRC’s Shelter Programme (also applied in Iraq, Jordan, and Turkey) stimulates the local economy by stimulating construction and improvements to local housing stocks while providing shelter to the refugees (Arcos González et al., 2016). Additionally, the program offers dispute resolution training programs that train their staff and local partners to develop skills in preventing shelter-related disputes.
As Lebanon is considered a weak state, another mechanism is offered to respond to the crisis. There are suggestions that a decentralized response, where the regional governments would be empowered to address the impact of the crisis, rather than the central government. A council of members would be responsible for coordinating meetings with donors and relief agencies in the hopes of implementing various developmental projects. Additionally, information management and coordination would be led by the regional governments that would register refugees and share data with local authorities and with the intelligence. This would prevent potential future violence.
On the other hand, municipalities are found not to be enough. Rather than utilizing municipalities as the main source of mediating conflicts, the locals from Akkar and refugees prefer traditional means, such as mukhtars, religious leaders, village elders or influential individuals (Heisbourg, 2015). If the latter fails to manage the conflict, only then, both the refugees and the Akkar locals would resolve to municipalities for help.
It is admitted that Turkey is in dire need of international help. While Turkey itself should step up in going beyond the refugee camps and take into consideration urban refugee population, they both call for international help. While Akesson does not specify the exact international help, Baird specifically targets European countries as they are ultimately the final destinations for the refugees. He urges Europe to help Turkey to relocate the refugees in safer countries, and to provide more humanitarian and security needs. Beltekin (2016) admits that Turkey is reaching its limit in dealing with the refugees and urges for international cooperation in containing the crisis. According to him, to manage the crisis, there should be more cooperation between the government, NGO’s, INGO’S, improve the registration system that would allow to know the number of refugees outside camps and to commence a process of integration into society that would eventually lead towards obtaining citizenship.
Beltekin (2016) supports the idea of integrating the Syrian refugees into the Turkish society. Moreover, he suggests that to incorporate the refugees, there has to be a switch from old conservative policies (nationalists) to more liberal ones that would meet today’s international standard. Also, he urges the government to change its approach in governing the crisis, so that Turkey could receive the help of various organizations, and not only from its national ones.
Finally, Turkey must act more actively in the international arena. It is suggested that to avoid a spillover of violence; Turkey must cooperate with its allies to establish safe zone areas and to secure its borders in order to avoid foreign fights and radical ideologies in the state (Akram et al., 2015).
The Interplay between United State and Russia
The devastation caused by terrorist actions in the Syrian crisis has led to a plethora of issues for international leaders in The United States and Russia. The notion of democracy has not been readily accepted especially by the Radical Muslims in the country. As the terrorism escalates, the Syrian officials along with their Iranian and Russian supporters have put forward their readiness to fight such terrorism together with the U.S. However; they have set conditions – that the United States officials acknowledge Assad’s government as allies Sunni Islamist extremism (Hamid, 2015). Nevertheless, many Congress Members have dismissed the chances of the United States working with Assad; furthermore, U.S. officials have disagreed to term all Assad enemies as terrorists. Regarding its relationship with Syria in the context of the Syrian crisis, the United States has claimed a fundamental strategic disparity with Russia over Asad’s future and its military intervention. The U.S. have advocated for supervised political reforms and assert the loss of legitimacy by Assad. A number of Congress members have argued that the U.S. ought to press for negotiations with Asad or intervene militarily to safeguard the people of Syria. In addition, others have suggested that any military involvement by the United States could risk further destabilization of the Syrian conflict in the long-haul. Officials of the U.S. are debating the rewards and risks associated with taking action in Syria against the Asad’s regime and the Islamic State. They are also reviewing any assistance to vetted members of specific opposition sets, for instance, offering military defensive protection, arms, and training.
Little progress is being made in alleviating the ongoing influx of Syrian refugees. The problem is the relationship between the central governments and municipalities, as the latter has no control over managing donations given to refugees since they are being taken by national ministries. To be more precise, they blame the international non-governmental organizations (INGO’s) for bypassing the municipalities’ authority and going straight to ministries. This results in a lack of cooperation between all the parties. This is due to the absence of the state. Bureaucracy IS the main reason for the development of problems regarding the Syrian refugee status in the country, alongside residency challenges and access to employment.  Politics also play a role in culminating them. The issue of Syrian refugees in Turkey might be politicized. The plan to relocate the refugees in certain regions are seen by the local people as an attempt of genocide, as it would impact the demographics and consolidate the government’s authority in the region. This might spark a conflict between the refugees and the locals. Interestingly, while states fear that the Syrian refugees might remain for a long period, if not permanently, in their territories, the refugees themselves desire a different outcome. It was reported that although 22% plan on staying in Lebanon, 58% hope for a fast return to Syria. In the case of Turkey, it is stated that all refugees would like to go back to Syria. Yet, the problem is the chaos in Syria which is continuously growing and with no near end in sight. Thus, the only way for the refugees to return is to have the war over. The international community is sluggishly creating an environment for this.
Akram, S., Noureddine, E., Kuzmova, Y., Lang, A., Bidinger, S., & Hites, D. (2015). Protecting Syrian Refugees: Laws, Policies, and Global Responsibility Sharing. Middle East Law and Governance, 7(3), 287-318. http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/18763375-00703003
Arcos González, P., Cherri, Z., & Castro Delgado, R. (2016). The Lebanese and Syrian crisis: impact of the influx of Syrian refugees to an already weak state. Risk Management And Healthcare Policy, Volume 9, 165-172. http://dx.doi.org/10.2147/rmhp.s106068
Beltekin, N. (2016). Turkey’s Progress Toward Meeting Refugee Education Needs The Example of Syrian Refugees. Eurasian Journal of Educational Research, 16(66), 1-30. http://dx.doi.org/10.14689/ejer.2016.66.10
Bican, B. (2016). The Syrian Refugees Crisis in Increasingly Fragmented International Law: Is the EU – Turkey Readmission Agreement in Accordance with International Law? IOSR Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 21(09), 01-12. http://dx.doi.org/10.9790/0837-2109040112
Heisbourg, F. (2015). The Strategic Implications of the Syrian Refugee Crisis. Survival, 57(6), 7-20. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00396338.2015.1116144
Hamid, S. (2015). What is Policy Research For? Reflections on the United States’ Failures in Syria. Middle East Law and Governance, 7(3), 373-386. http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/18763375-00703006

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