In recent weeks, the thing that’s been dominating the news most is the plight of Syrian refugees coming into Europe. There have been hundreds of different reactions to the issue, particularly here in Britain, as there is heavy debate. But with so much going on at the same time, it’s often difficult to understand the basics, when there’s so many other things to think about. Let’s try and get to grips with the situation a bit, so hopefully next time you read or hear something, you’ll be able to understand it a little better.
So why are so many people leaving Syria? The Middle East has had a tricky political situation for decades, with little sign of getting any better in the near future. Syria in particular is a difficult case, as government forces and rebel forces have gone head-to-head to fight for control of key cities. The ancient cities of Damascus and Aleppo are slowly being brought to ruin, and the people that live in the cities get caught in the struggle. Bombs are falling from all directions. Now the Islamic State (a military group condemned by most of the media) are in the mix, the situation is even more chaotic. As the Syrian government is failing to protect, and in some cases it actively harms, its people, many choose to leave the country to find safety in Europe.
So, the route many take is via Turkey, the neighbouring country that also borders Europe (through its connection with Greece in Thrace). Although in some places the crossing from Turkey to Greek islands like Kos and Lesbos is short, it’s very dangerous, because the boats are run by criminals looking to make money from the political situation. Once they are in the EU, they can apply for asylum and protection. However, this has become difficult recently. A law called the Dublin Convention means that refugees like the Syrians must apply for asylum in the first EU country they reach, which for most in Greece or Italy. However, Greece and Italy are saying they can’t handle increased numbers of migrants, and the rest of Europe must help. To counter this, some central and Northern European countries keep arguing that this Dublin Regulation must be upheld. Britain is under increasing pressure to accept more refugees, which is quite unpopular with many people.
Greece is having a very bad time this year. First, the debt crisis made many in Europe think the Greek people were irresponsible. Then, they had a referendum to try and organise a fairer deal for themselves. Eventually, Greece had to agree to EU terms, which weren’t much better than the previous set which caused massive unemployment. Then their Prime Minister resigned, so now they have only a temporary government. Which, in turn, is having to deal with tens of thousands of refugees. It’s a real nightmare! Although the tourist industry in Greece is still popular, islands like Kos have become temporary centres for refugees.
The debate in Britain is closely linked to the bigger issue of migration. The trouble is, lots of people don’t distinguish between people who move to Britain to get a better job, and people who want protection as they fear for their lives. Many think Syrians are just another group of people looking to take advantage of the benefits a life in Britain can provide. This makes it very difficult for refugees to get in, even if they need to, because of the attitudes of some people, as well as the national government. Britain has pledged to take another 4,000 refugees, but many other European nations are saying this isn’t enough.
Have recent events changed our minds? The answer is, unfortunately, no – even the devastating photos of drowned children on the beach don’t have an effect on some people. But comparing it to the Holocaust can sometimes be more influential – Britain often prides itself for taking in many Jewish refugees, so why won’t it do the same for Syrians?
Image credit: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/agustin-morales/syrian-exodus-chapter-two_b_3652891.html