FPI Resources: The Syrian Refugee Crisis

September 9, 2015

The Syrian refugee crisis is accelerating. In June, a record total of 70,000 refugees arrived in Europe. July set another record, with 107,500 arrivals. In a single week in August, more than 20,000 refugees landed in Greece alone. Yet the death of a single child has done more to arouse global concern than a mass of statistics. Even so, images can neither unravel the complexity of the Syrian civil war nor explain why its effects are now being felt across Europe.

The UN estimates there are now almost 4.1 million refugees from the war in Syria, including 1.9 million in Turkey, 1.1 million in Lebanon, and 600,000 in Jordan. For years, these nations that share a border with Syria have paid a price far greater than Europe, which has remained relatively insulated from the war’s impact. Now the misery of life in Jordanian camps or Turkish slums has led an increasing number of refugees to seek opportunity in Europe, risking their lives in overcrowded boats or airless cargo trucks.

While it remains essential for the United States and Europe to provide humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees, one should not mistake the symptom for the disease. This crisis is the result of the ongoing war in Syria, which the West has watched passively. There are a range of options available, including greater support for vetted members of the armed opposition, the establishment of humanitarian safe zones inside Syria, and redoubling the fight against the Islamic State. What is clear is that the current, failed strategy has imposed a staggering human cost.

FPI believes that the following resources will be beneficial for lawmakers and their staff as they consider how the United States should respond both to the plight of Syrian refugees in Europe and to the brutal war that has driven them from their homeland.


Editorial, The West’s Refugee Crisis, Wall Street Journal, Sep. 6, 2015

“The photograph of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi, who drowned trying to flee to Greece with his brother and mother, has focused the world on Europe’s Middle Eastern refugee crisis. Demands for compassion are easy, but it’s also important to understand how Europe—and the U.S.—got here. This is what the world looks like when the West abandons its responsibility to maintain world order.”

Fred Hiatt, Obama’s Syria Achievement, Washington Post, Sep. 6, 2015

“This may be the most surprising of President Obama’s foreign-policy legacies: not just that he presided over a humanitarian and cultural disaster of epochal proportions, but that he soothed the American people into feeling no responsibility for the tragedy. … He has implied that because we can’t solve every problem, maybe we shouldn’t solve any. ‘How do I weigh tens of thousands who’ve been killed in Syria versus the tens of thousands who are currently being killed in the Congo?' he asked (though at the time thousands were not being killed in Congo).’”

Nicholas Kristof, Refugees Who Could Be Us, New York Times, Sep. 6, 2015

“We Americans may be tempted to pat ourselves on the back. But the U.S. has accepted only about 1,500 Syrian refugees since the war began, and the Obama administration has dropped the ball on Syria — whether doing something hard like using the threat of missiles to create a safe zone, or something easy like supporting more schools for Syrian refugee children in neighboring countries.”

Elaine Ayo, Europe’s Migrant Crisis by the Numbers, Foreign Policy, Sep. 3, 2015

“The European Union’s proximity to protracted conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, as well as economically depressed areas in Eastern Europe, has made member countries—particularly Germany, Hungary, France, Italy, and Sweden—top destinations for asylum-seekers. In the first four months of 2015, EU member states received 242,075 first-time asylum applications, an 80 percent increase from the same period in 2014.”

Sohrab Ahmari, The Cost of a New Life In Europe, Wall Street Journal, Sep. 2, 2015

“It often takes more than one attempt to sail to Greece. Some are caught by police while waiting in the woods in western Turkey. Or the boat breaks down, and the Turkish navy is called in to rescue refugees. Successful or not, refugees pay traffickers $150 or more per person per attempt…The inflatable boats are invariably overloaded and often unseaworthy. To maximize returns, traffickers board 50 to 80 refugees on boats meant for 10 to 20.”

Shadi Martini, A Syrian Refugee and Echoes of the Past, Wall Street Journal, Sep. 3, 2015

“During my tour of Holocaust exhibits, I was gripped by one particular event: the tragic voyage of the S.S. St. Louis. On May 13, 1939, more than 930 Jews fled Germany aboard that luxury cruise liner. They had hoped to reach Cuba and then travel to the U.S. But they were turned away in Havana and forced to return to Europe, where more than 250 were killed by the Nazis. I wondered: How could the world have abandoned these people?”

Editorial, Caring for the Other Refugees, New York Times, Sep. 9, 2015

“Despite repeated appeals to member states, the United Nations has received only $1.67 billion of the $4.5 billion it needs this year for Syrian refugees in neighboring countries. This is unconscionable. As a direct result, the World Food Program has had to cut rations for 1.6 million Syrians, with refugees in Lebanon allocated just $13 a month. In Jordan, more than 200,000 refugees stopped receiving any food aid at all last week.”

Michael Gerson, The Horrific Results of Obama’s Failure in Syria, Washington Post, Sep. 3, 2015

“What explains Obama’s high tolerance for humiliation and mass atrocities in Syria? The Syrian regime is Iran’s proxy, propped up by billions of dollars each year. And Obama wanted nothing to interfere with the prospects for a nuclear deal with Iran. He was, as [Ambassador Fred] Hof has said, ‘reluctant to offend the Iranians at this critical juncture.’ So the effective concession of Syria as an Iranian zone of influence is just one more cost of the president’s legacy nuclear agreement.”

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