Select this search icon to access the amnesty.ca search form

Main menu

Facebook Share

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.

    September 21, 2015

    By Gloria Nafziger, Amnesty Canada's Refugee Coordinator.

    The recent announcement to bring 10,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees to Canada by September 2016 has the appearance of being a step in the right direction. Without a doubt, in the face of the most urgent refugee crisis in the past 40 years anything that can be done to expedite the resettlement of vulnerable refugees is a step in the right direction. 

    But it is a very small and disappointing step forward.

    by Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexNeveAmnesty

     

    CANADA: WELCOME
    SYRIAN REFUGEES

    Canada’s commitment to resettling refugees has been modest and processing rates painfully slow. Remind the Prime Minister and all party leaders that Canadians welcome refugees.

    September 08, 2015

    By Barbora Cernušáková, Hungary Researcher at Amnesty International, Bicske, Hungary. Follow Barbora on Twietter @BCernusakova.

    His brother just looked at him. The Pakistani man in his fifties lay lifeless beside a train track a few hundred metres from Bicske train station. It is unclear how he died, but he was trying to find a better life in Europe.

    Both men were part of a larger group running away from a train that had been halted since yesterday in the Hungarian train station. Many other refugees and migrants are still refusing to leave the train because they don’t want to go to Hungarian reception centres.

     

    "This week, at the main Keleti station in Budapest and in Bicske, I witnessed a new low in the cruelty of the treatment of refugees in Hungary".

    - Barbora Cernuscova, Hungary Researcher at Amnesty International

    After being barred from boarding trains for days, yesterday morning, the police at Keleti suddenly lifted the barriers.

    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.

     

    November 24, 2015

    These four Kurdish Syrian family members are traveling on foot. This group of brothers and a slightly older uncle left the town of Amuda located in the Kurdish region of Syria 10 days ago. As ISIS fighting was closing in to only 30kms from Amuda, they decided to leave. After making their way to the Turkish border and meeting their smuggler contact, they each had to pay 350 USD to cross the Turkish border on foot, under the cover of night. They made their way to the coastal city of Izmir from which they embarked on an inflatable boat for a perilous 15 minutes journey to Mitilini, Greece. They all had to pay 1200 USD each for this part of the trip. Upon arrival in Greece, they registered as EU refugees and then took a ferry to the Greek mainland where they then travelled by bus to Serbia.

     

    By Gloria Nafziger, Refugee Campaigner for Amnesty International Canada
     

    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 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. 

    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.

    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.

    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

    November 02, 2015

    By Ina Strøm from Amnesty Norway
     

    Resettlement is a lifeline open to some of the world’s most vulnerable refugees. A young family from Syria tells us what a huge difference moving to Norway has made in their lives.

    “The Norwegian authorities deliberately scheduled the call on Kahraman’s first birthday,” remembers Sherihan, a 29-year-old musician. “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.”

    In a bright apartment in a modest 1950s building in a quiet corner of Oslo, Norway, she and her husband are teasing each other. “This is how I see Norway,” says Hennan, an artist aged 31: “Children come first, then the woman, then the dog, and at last the man!” They both laugh.

    Blood-spattered pieces of bread

    The happy scene is a million miles away from what they left behinhd in Aleppo, Syria. “Those days were hard,” says Hennan. “I saw a man being shot by snipers on the way from the bakery.

    Pages

    rights