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Still failing Syria’s refugees 15 décembre 2014

Posted by Acturca in Middle East / Moyen Orient, Turkey / Turquie.
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International New York Times (USA) December 15, 2014, p. 8

By The Editorial Board

The international community is expected to offer shelter and support to more than 100,000 additional Syrian refugees, who have been forced from their homes by their country’s bloody civil war. That is progress — but it is not nearly enough when measured against the enormous need and the fact that some of the world’s wealthiest countries are still turning their backs on this humanitarian disaster.

Since the start of the conflict in 2011, fewer than 191,000 Syrians have been accepted for resettlement in countries outside the region. At a conference in Geneva last week, the United Nations refugee agency said 28 countries had made firm commitments to accept 66,254 Syrian refugees, and 11 other countries were preparing to expand existing programs or were considering expanding them, bringing total new resettlement slots to above 100,000. The agency’s goal was to have countries accept 130,000 additional Syrian refugees in 2015 and 2016, and international aid agencies had pushed for an even higher total, 180,000 or more.

Those figures are a drop in the bucket when one considers that Syria’s civil war, now in its fourth year, has forcibly displaced millions of civilians, inside and outside the country. The overwhelming burden is borne by Syria’s neighbors — Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt — which together have absorbed roughly 3.8 million Syrian refugees. The situation is not only financially costly but politically destabilizing. And the refugee problem can only become more acute since there is no end in sight to the war.

Clearly, more countries need to step up and share this load. Many have refused to take in a single refugee, thus failing any reasonable test of international citizenship and basic compassion. They include China and Russia and wealthy Gulf states like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The refusal of China and Russia to reach out is especially galling, since they consider themselves world leaders and have fueled the conflict through resolute support for Syria’s dictator, Bashar al-Assad. The Gulf states have also played a role by backing various militant groups in the war. Even in Europe, which has more of a tradition of offering refuge to those fleeing conflict, only Germany and Sweden have responded in a generous way. Other European countries — Britain, France, Italy, Spain and Portugal — have fallen far short.

Most Syrians, hoping one day to return to their country, will not choose to leave the region. But some of them wish to get on with building new lives and would like to leave. World leaders should listen to their pleas.

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