It has been six years since the start of the Syrian refugee crisis, and options for permanent shelter for Syrians remain bleak. Europe - previously a desirable option due to favorable economic opportunities - has become less welcoming as a result of a perceived terrorist threat. Middle Eastern countries, however, are beginning to reach maximum capacity, and much of Syria continues to be uninhabitable. As thousands continue to flee the country, many find themselves without shelter or employment.
Yesterday, a 32-year-old Syrian refugee was arrested in Alexandroupolis, Greece, on terror charges. He and his two children arrived in Greece after escaping to Turkey. But, after an investigation of his asylum application, police have suspicions of a potential affiliation with ISIS. Rhetoric linking young Middle Easterners to terrorism continues to be a dominant mindset in Western countries; yet, a September report by NBC showed that the terrorist group has been losing its appeal to young Syrian rebels, especially after their defeat in Mosul. In fact, ISIS has shifted its primary efforts to Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, Thailand, and Malaysia. Although the Syrian community has shown great resistance to these recruitment attempts, many European countries contend that extremists use refugee waves as a gateway into the continent.
As European doors have begun to close, countries neighboring Syria have begun to feel the strain of the incoming population. On Monday, Lebanese President Michel Aoun declared that the nation has reached its limit, as refugees have grown to 1.5 million, or 25% of the total population. He argues that the influx of Syrians - largely Sunni Muslims - has destabilized the balance with Christians, leading to social and economic discrimination. The Lebanese administration hopes to lawfully facilitate the return of Syrians to their homeland. Similarly, 120,000 Syrian refugees located in Egypt are crammed into already-crowded port cities, such as Alexandria. Some have turned to smugglers for escape from the inhospitable conditions, thus running the risk of drowning, human trafficking, and theft. In essence, the magnitude of the resettled refugees has brought about unforeseen political and economic ramifications that national leaders struggle to address.
Unfortunately, returning home remains to be an unlikely scenario for the refugee population. A UNHCR report shows that the presence of extremist groups and hazardous materials makes for unlivable circumstances in most major Syrian cities. Since the beginning of the year, 7,000 refugees have streamed out of Syria daily. Though the organization acknowledges the immense stress of host countries, officials wish to see more international support going forward.
Barrington, Lisa, and Tom Perry; “Syrian refugees should return to calmer areas: Lebanon president.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 16 Oct. 2017, www.reuters.com/article/us-lebanon-politics-refugees/syrian-refugees-should-return-to-calmer-areas-lebanon-president-idUSKBN1CL1EW.
Cullen, Paul. “Syrian refugees’ road to Europe comes to a halt in Egypt.” The Irish Times, The Irish Times, 15 Oct. 2017, www.irishtimes.com/news/world/middle-east/syrian-refugees-road-to-europe-comes-to-a-halt-in-egypt-1.3256739.
Kantouris, Costas. “Syrian Refugee Detained in Greece on Terror Charge.” U.S. News & World Report, U.S. News & World Report, 20 Oct. 2017, www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2017-10-20/syrian-refugee-detained-in-greece-on-terror-charge.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. “The world must not turn its back on the Syrian refugee crisis.” UNHCR, www.unhcr.org/news/latest/2017/10/59e61a584/world-must-turn-its-syrian-refugee-crisis.html.
Windrem, Robert. “ISIS Recruits Fighters for the Philippines Instead of Syria.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 12 Sept. 2017, www.nbcnews.com/storyline/isis-uncovered/isis-recruits-fighters-philippines-instead-syria-n796741.