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The Syrian Refugee Crisis

    April 18, 2017

    Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International, blogs from Beirut, Lebanon. Follow Salil on Twitter @SalilShetty

    At a time of extreme contestation of what constitutes truth, and an era where “fake news” is almost celebrated, the rule of law based on real evidence is more essential than ever.

    International human rights law and humanitarian law are long-established standards and norms, and are critical to be able to distinguish right from wrong.

    Human rights give us a framework to interpret and describe why what we see is wrong. And they give us a legal architecture to hold governments to account and demand change.

    And what is the alternative to addressing the massive challenges the world faces without international solidarity and accountability, without a shared commitment to uphold the equal and inalienable rights of every person?

    December 22, 2016
    Syrians gather during an evacuation in Aleppo

    Thank you to the hundreds of thousands of Amnesty International supporters worldwide who took action on the crisis in Syria over the last week. Evacuations from Aleppo are nearly complete and the UN Security Council has agreed to urgently deploy monitors to the ground. We have only been able to do this with your support, every action that was taken has helped ensure that civilians in Aleppo are protected.

    We’ve finally seen an important break through on all the work that Amnesty International has been doing on Syria; on December 20th the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution establishing an independent international mechanism to ensure accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity committees in Syria since March 2011. This is the first step towards justice for the thousands of victims in Syrian crisis.

    August 22, 2016

    By Gauri van Gulik

    The horrific situation facing Syria’s children, graphically captured by the haunting image of five-year-old Omran Daqneesh, shocked and bloodied in the back of an ambulance after being pulled from the rubble of his home, makes it easy to understand why parents would take their children on the desperate, arduous journey to Europe.

    But if a child like Omran were to survive the trip and reach Europe’s shores, their ordeal would be far from over.

    On a visit to the Greek island of Lesvos, I saw first-hand what awaits them.

    In a detention centre on Lesvos I met Ahmed, a one-year-old baby who has been sick for almost all of his short life from what his mother described as a chemical attack. She told me that a bomb destroyed their home soon after Ahmed was born, lodging shrapnel in his neck. Soon after, he developed severe asthma and other symptoms consistent with chlorine gas inhalation. When I met him almost a year after the bombing, I could see his scars and his little body struggled to breathe.

    June 20, 2016

    On World Refugee Day, we talk to Ghias Aljundi, who fled to the UK from Syria 18 years ago. He is one of thousands volunteering to help refugees arriving in Greece since last year. But he’d never expected that one day he’d rescue his own family from a rubber boat.

    Only after the rescue did Ghias realise that this little girl is his three-year-old niece, Sirin. © Private

    April 21, 2016

    By Conor Fortune, News Writer at Amnesty International

    You can’t stop a ship dead in its tracks, but sometimes you can change its course.

    And that’s what happened recently in the Aegean Sea in a new twist in the evolving refugee crisis my colleagues from Amnesty International and I were researching on the Greek islands of Lesvos and Chios.

    On 5 April, we were on board a night-time ferry from Mytilene, Lesvos, to Chios, when we were informed that our destination had changed because of “the refugee situation”. Hundreds of refugees and migrants were camping out in the open on the main dock in Chios harbour.

    Because our ferry – a towering mass of metal the length of two football pitches – posed a serious threat to them, we were diverted mid-voyage and docked at another port an hour’s drive away.

    March 31, 2016
         Sherihan from Syria, resettled in Norway with her husband and son     They said: ‘We have a gift for you. You can come to Norway!’. We didn’t know anything about Norway, but we were so happy.

     

    Over one million people reached Europe last year in fragile, overcrowded boats.

    Why did such a staggering number of refugees and asylum-seekers pay smugglers thousands of dollars to risk their lives? It’s simple: Because they had no other option. With borders slammed shut, few can hope to reach another country safely and legally.

    No one should have to gamble their life on a dangerous journey to get the protection they’re entitled to. And governments could quite easily stop this happening.

    How? By offering people alternatives.

    Canada, for example, has opened its doors to 25,000 Syrian refugees since last November. Every single one reached their new home country in the only obvious way: by plane. They were able to do so because of a solution called resettlement.

     

    March 18, 2016

    By Salil Shetty (Amnesty International @SalilShetty), Ken Roth (Human Rights Watch @Ken Roth), and Catherine Woollard (ECRE @ecre)

    Let’s not confuse desperation for legality when it comes to Europe’s proposed refugee deal with Turkey. No one should be under any illusion - the very principle of international protection for those fleeing war and persecution is at stake.

    Every government in Europe will have to declare its hand this week: does it uphold the right to seek asylum, or does it subordinate that right to horse trading with a country that has an inadequate record of respecting it.

    This new proposal is only the latest in a dangerous trend.  Over the past few months, various European governments have imposed discriminatory border closures and unlawful caps on asylum applications. The result is a deepening humanitarian disaster for thousands of refugees trapped in Greece, a surge in alarmist, vitriolic rhetoric stigmatizing asylum seekers and migrants.

    March 07, 2016

     

    “You have to understand that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land,” writes Warsan Shire, a Somali-British poet. 

     

    On Friday, March 4, 2016, a Turkish court sentenced two Syrian nationals found guilty in the smuggling of 3 year old Alan Kurdi and his family.  The photograph of Alan’s lifeless body on a beach in Turkey became the catalyst for an outpouring of sympathy for Syrian refugees in Canada and beyond.  Alan’s father, Abdullah must live with the devastating result of joining his family on a tiny boat in the hope they would all find safety.  His wife and two sons, as well as two other people, perished on that journey.  Far from abating, the number of refugees attempting dangerous maritime crossings continues to grow.

     

    Refugees are fleeing desperate situations and will do whatever they must to save their lives.  Often they have no choice but to turn to smugglers to help them escape.

     

    March 07, 2016

    By Gauri van Gulik, Deputy Director for Europe & Central Asia, Amnesty International. Follow Gauri on Twitter @gaurivangulik

    On 5 March 1946, in a small college gym in Missouri, Winston Churchill warned: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent.”

    Seventy years after Churchill gave that speech, a new iron curtain is descending across Europe. Made of razor wire, and of failed asylum policies. It can be seen at Spanish enclaves Ceuta and Melilla in the Mediterranean and at Idomeni in northern Greece, where this week Macedonian riot police tear-gassed desperate families of refugees trying to cross from Greece.

    The old Iron Curtain kept people in, the new one keeps people out. 

    EU member states have built more than 235km of fences at the EU’s external borders: between Hungary and Serbia, Greece and Turkey, Bulgaria and Turkey, and this week, Austria and Slovenia. Neighbours like Turkey have become Europe’s border guards, pushing migrants and refugees back, sometimes even shooting them. 

    February 16, 2016

    "Mohammad" arrived at the Canada-US at Fort Erie in early January.  He is a 16 year old boy from Syria who came to Canada looking for protection.  It is reported that he was immediately detained and held in isolation in an immigration holding centre in Toronto for three weeks. Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has ordered that he be deported back to the United States.  According to the Canada-US ‘Safe Third Country Agreement’ a refugee must make a refugee claim in the first country in which they arrive; either Canada or the United States.  There is an exception to this agreement for unaccompanied minors, but the Canadian officials decided the exception did not apply in Mohammad’s case.

    February 04, 2016

    Refugees in the region

    More than 4.5 million refugees from Syria are in just five countries Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt:

    Turkey hosts 2.5 million refugees from Syria, more than any other country worldwide Lebanon hosts approximately 1.1 million refugees from Syria which amounts to around one in five people in the country Jordan hosts approximately 635,324 refugees from Syria, which amounts to about 10% of the population Iraq where 3.9 million people are already internally displaced hosts 245,022 refugees from Syria Egypt hosts 117,658 refugees from Syria

    The UN’s 2015 humanitarian appeal for Syrian refugees was just 61% funded by the end of the year.

    Funding shortages mean that the most vulnerable Syrian refugees in Lebanon receive just $21.60 per person month or around US$0.70 cent a day for food assistance, well below the UN’s poverty line of US$1.90

    86% of Syrian refugees in urban areas in Jordan are living below the local poverty line.

    Conflict in Syria

    February 02, 2016
    Many refugee women from Syria tell us they don’t feel safe in Lebanon. Here are four reasons why, and three possible solutions. 1. Women are doubly at risk: both as refugees, and because of their gender
    January 22, 2016

    Omar, a refugee from Syria, was just 12 years old when he accidentally arrived alone in Sweden. It took months of tears and worry, emails and phone calls before his parents and big brother could join him. As Denmark proposes delaying family reunification for up to five years, their story shows why the right to a family life is worth fighting for.

    “I slept in jeans, not pyjamas,” says Maha Khadour, Omar’s mother, recalling the summer of 2012 when bombs starting falling on their neighbourhood in Syria. “You just didn't know when you’d have to flee."

    Despite being a veterinarian, not a doctor, her husband Mohannad gave medical help to injured neighbours who feared being arrested if they sought help at a public hospital. When rumours started circulating that the government was looking for Mohannad, he and Maha fled with their two sons, Ali, now aged 19, and Omar, now 14, to neighbouring Turkey.

    December 15, 2015
    Opening our arms to refugees 
     

    By Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada

    My heart burst when I saw the picture of the drowned body of 3 year old Alan Kurdi in his red shirt and blue pants, face downward in the sand on a Turkish beach. I won’t be able to forget that picture, ever.

    Today, I’m filled with a different kind of emotion. It’s joy, renewed hope, and a sense of pride as I watch Canadians open their arms to welcome refugees from Syria. Thank you. You played a part in turning human tragedy to joy.

    Since the start of the brutal civil war in Syria, Amnesty International has been sounding the alarm bell about the rapidly mounting Syrian refugee crisis, and the need for Canada to respond.

    With your help, Amnesty International sent researchers into the heart of the trouble spots in Syria, to document the gravity of the crisis, to call on neighbouring countries to protect fleeing refugees, and to move the world to bring resources, attention and understanding to help ease the frightening vulnerability of refugees.  

    December 11, 2015

    By Lorna Hayes and Khairunissa Dhala from Amnesty’s refugee and migrants’ rights team at Amnesty's International Secretariat

    Said and his partner Jamal – who is living with HIV – fled Syria after being tortured for their political activism. They are excited about starting a new life in the capital, Berlin, after being resettled there.

    “We were so happy that we cried,” says Jamal* about the moment he and his partner Said* found out that Germany had opened its doors to them.

    “It was a moment of victory,” Jamal continues. “We were shocked that we were accepted for resettlement so quickly, [after just] six months.”

    They were lucky – many other refugees who qualify for resettlement wait much longer for that all-important phone call to say they can settle down for good somewhere peaceful and safe.

    A new home in Berlin

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