27 August 2015

Who is speaking up today for the children
of Syria and the refugees in Europe?

Child refugees on the border of Greece and FYR Macedonia last week ... who is going to speak up for the refugees in Europe?

Patrick Comerford

The Irish Anti-War Movement has organised protest about the present refugee crisis at the EU Offices in Dawson Street, Dublin, at 5 p.m. this afternoon [27 August 2015].

I have been invited to speak as President of the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and the other speakers include a refugee from Syria, a refugee advocate, Caoimhe Butterly of the Anti-Racist Network, TDs, local councillors and Memet Uludag of the Irish Anti-War Movement, who is speaking on an audio link from island of Kos in Greece.

The British Home Secretary, Theresa May, recently claimed that the vast majority of migrants to Europe are Africans travelling for economic reasons. The reality is that the overwhelming majority of migrants in the present crisis are refugees fleeing from wars and conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Eritrea and beyond.

All these countries have been devastated by wars in which the West has played a central role. Iraq and Afghanistan were destabilised and impoverished by bombings and invasions in recent years, as a result of NATO bombing in 2011 Libya has descended into civil war and social breakdown, Syria was marginalised as part of a Bush-defined “axis of evil,” and the rise of the so-called Islamic State has been financed, fuelled and facilitated by Saudi Arabia, the West’s strongest ally in the Middle East and yet the one country singularly responsible for the 9/11 bombings.

The majority of the refugees today come from Syria. Any politician in Europe who says they should return should be challenged: “Why don’t you go on holiday there? Would you live there by choice?”

The money being spent on more police, barbed wire, walls, fences and gas would go a long way towards providing refugees sleeping on the streets of European capitals with basic facilities to wash, have clean food and get safe passage.

Yet the French, British and Hungarian Prime Ministers have refused outright to accept an EU quota system for refugee settlement.

The language and distortion by senior EU politicians is heightening xenophobia throughout Europe. The British Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, has portrayed these refugees as marauders who would soon hasten the collapse of European civilisation. The British Prime Minister David Cameron has referred to a ‘swarm’ of refugees trying to enter Britain through Calais.

But the overwhelming majority of these people are refugees and not migrants. The actual numbers of refugees entering the EU is a tiny percentage of EU populations. So far this year 340,000 refugees have crossed Europe’s borders – only 0.045 percent of Europe’s total population of 740 million.

Indeed, Middle Eastern countries and Turkey have taken the greatest burden, with Turkey hosting 1.8 million refugees from Syria alone, and Lebanon, a country of 4.5 million, hosting 1.2 million Syrian refugees.

In Syria, an estimated 11.6 million people have been displaced, 4 million of these externally. Refugees are fleeing Syria because between 150,000 and 330,000 of their fellow Syrians have died at the hands of the Assad regime, rebel groups and Islamic State, in a brutal civil war.

Meanwhile, millions of people remain trapped inside Syria at the mercy of conflict, without food, water, or adequate shelter. While the conflict continues the number of people in need grows; and the dangers associated with the delivery of aid remain acute.
Eight children are being killed each and every day in Syria, so that an entire generation is being traumatised by this horrific conflict.

What can be done?

The EU must treat the Syria crisis as an absolute priority.

The EU and its member states must offer an increased number of resettlement places to Syrian refugees, prioritising the most vulnerable.

The EU and its member states must urgently increase funding for the response and to ensure that existing funding commitments are fully met.

The EU and its member states must put immediate pressure on the international community to find a political solution to the crisis, prioritising the protection of civilians in Syria.

There are a number of ways you can say this.

One is to sign the urgent appeal that has been initiated by the agency GOAL.

Another is to put pressure on your local national and European representatives and politicians.

And you can turn up at this evening’s demonstration at 5 p.m.

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