Syria’s civil war is the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. Half the country’s population — approximately 11 million people — have been forced to flee or unfortunately lost their lives.
Families are struggling to survive inside Syria, but the greatest dilemma is that there is nowhere to make a new home in neighbouring countries. Others are risking their lives on the way to European countries, in the hopes of finding safety.
So how did it begin?
Back in 2011, demonstrations began against the government. The government reacted harshly to these protests, and this resulted in the rebels fighting back against the violence.
By July, army defectors had organised the Free Syrian Army along with Syrian civilians taking up arms to join the fight. But the division between secular and Islamist fighters, and between ethnic groups, continues to complicate the conflict.
How many people are affected?
If the refugees of the world were to come together and form a country, they’d be larger than the UK. There are currently over 65 million people displaced across the world, and if conflicts continue, then this number will continue to grow.
Where are they going?
Wherever they can basically. With so many people without homes and countries, these people are risking their lives to find a place to call home. Below are rough figures of the countries that have welcomes refugees.
Turkey – 2.5 million
Pakistan – 1.6 million
Jordan – 1.4 million
Lebanon – 1.2 million
Iraq – 250,000
Egypt – 133,000
Germany – 105,000 (but have pledged spaces for up to 800,000)
Greece – 88,000
Sweden – 40,000+
Canada – 25,000
Algeria – 25,000
Austria – 18,000+
Armenia – 17,000+
Australia – 8,700
United States – 7,000
United Kingdom – 5,000
What is Australia doing?
During the 2015-16 financial year, a total of 8640 Humanitarian visas were granted to people displaced by conflicts in Syria and Iraq. While this is a step in the right direction, there’s still a long way to go.
Currently, those who come by boat are processed differently from those arriving by plane.
Australia pays for the processing of asylum seekers who are intercepted by the navy and then transported to other countries. The total cost for this policy is now $500 million and rising.
Recently, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton confirmed these inadequate facilities would be closed in the future. He said there is no timeline for closing the Nauru detention centre yet, but both countries would work towards it “as quickly as possible.” Australia will give Papua New Guinea extra resources to cope with the transition and processing, but it is not known how much.
At the end of the day, perhaps we should start treating these people as the victims that they are and offering support rather than punishment.