Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Syria and Beyond: Assessing the Global Refugee Crisis

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Syria and Beyond: Assessing the Global Refugee Crisis

Article excerpt

Georgetown University's Mortara Center for International Studies held an Oct. 5 roundtable discussion in Washington, DC to provide an update on the many refugee crises plaguing the Middle East and other regions of the world.

Susan Martin, professor of international migration at Georgetown, began by placing the Syrian refugee crisis in context.

"There is a [refugee] crisis globally, it's not just in specific regions," Martin noted. At the end of 2014, she pointed out, there were more than 60 million registered refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) across the world. These numbers are likely higher, she added, as many individuals avoid registering as refugees in order to avoid detection by hostile governments or other potential adversaries.

The recent onset of violence in places such as Syria, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Ukraine has caused global refugee populations to surge, Martin explained. "Displacement is now at levels not seen since the end of World War II," she stated.

Making matters worse, Martin noted, is the fact that many long-standing conflicts remain seemingly intractable. As a result, refugees now are displaced from their homes for 25 years, on average, whereas several years ago the average length of exile was 17 years.

Equally concerning is the lack of resources available to refugees, Martin said. The U.N. is struggling to respond to the multiple crises, she explained, and many humanitarian efforts are severely underfunded. She cited as an example the World Food Program, which recently cut its food rations for Syrians by 30 percent. Syrians now receive just $14 a month from the program, an amount that does not go far in the urban areas where many refugees reside.

Rochelle Davis, a professor at Georgetown's School of Foreign Service, outlined the desperate situation faced by Syrian refugees, many of whom have lost everything-including family members, their ability to practice their profession, and access to their money.

While some in the West with xenophobic attitudes portray Syrian refugees as economic migrants, Davis pointed out that many Syrians are hesitant to leave their homeland. Most refugees typically leave Syria after having already relocated within the country several times, she noted, until they are leftwith no option other than fleeing.

According to Davis, older Syrians tend to stay in neighboring countries such as Jordan and Lebanon with the intention of returning home when the appropriate time comes. …

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