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The Syrian Refugee Crisis

    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 06, 2016

    Released 00:01 GMT on Monday 7 March 2016

    European leaders’ attempts to use Turkey as their border guard to stop refugees and asylum-seekers heading to the EU is a dangerous and deliberate ploy to shirk their responsibilities to people fleeing war and persecution, warns Amnesty International ahead of the EU and Turkish leaders’ meeting today in Brussels.

    EU efforts to address the refugee crisis have focused on ensuring that refugees and asylum-seekers remain in Turkey, instead of sharing the responsibility for their protection and assistance.

    “Using Turkey as a ‘safe third country’ is absurd. Many refugees still live in terrible conditions, some have been deported back to Syria and security forces have even shot at Syrians trying to cross the border,” said Gauri van Gulik, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia.

    “Europe has an absolute duty to protect refugees and must make the bold decision to fast-track significant, unconditional resettlement as a matter of urgency.”

    February 25, 2016

    Russia is violating international law by trying to deport three Syrian refugees who were detained in Dagestan after seeking asylum in the country, Amnesty International has said.

    The three men are due to be flown to Damascus on Thursday despite the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) asking Russia not to deport them to a country at war.

    “The Russian authorities are pretending it is safe for people to go back to the country where Russia itself is a warring party and is unforgivably ignoring the country’s refugee crisis,” said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia.

    “The attempt to deport these three men - in violation of international human rights and refugee law - is the latest example exposing Russia’s shameful approach to people in need of international protection.”

    In 2015, not a single person from Syria was given refugee status in Russia, while temporary asylum was given to only 482 people.

    February 19, 2016

    The Turkish authorities have denied entry to injured Syrian civilians in need of immediate medical care, after fleeing the intense bombardment of the northern Aleppo countryside in the past two weeks, said Amnesty International from the Öncüpınar/Bab al-Salam border crossing.

    The organization has also documented how Turkish security forces have shot and injured civilians, including children, who out of desperation have attempted to cross the border unofficially with the help of smugglers.

    “People we spoke to painted a tragic picture of the desperate situation for the civilians who remain trapped between daily airstrikes and dire humanitarian conditions. Turkey’s highly selective practice is appalling - only severely injured people are allowed entry to seek medical treatment while everyone else fleeing the violence is left unprotected,” said Tirana Hassan, Crisis Response Director at Amnesty International.

    February 16, 2016

    VANCOUVER- 16 February 2016 - Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics has joined hands with Amnesty International Canada to send a message of welcome to refugees resettling in Canada. From February 15-28th, the company aims to raise $$450,000 through the sale of their limited edition Hand of Friendship soap. All proceeds from the sale of the soap will go into the Friendship Fund created by Lush Cosmetics. The Friendship Funds will then be distributed to groups in North America helping to settle refugees arriving from Syria.

    “The war and violence experienced by Syrians forced to flee their homes is heartbreaking,” says Carleen Pickard, Campaigner at Lush Cosmetics. “In addition to offering financial resettlement support, we will inspire our customers to welcome Syrians and petition the Canadian government to support more refugees to come to Canada.”

    In a show of solidarity, Lush shops will dedicate their store-front windows to welcoming refugees in Arabic. The company is also encouraging Lush customers to sign welcome postcards to newly arrived refugees and to engage socially with the hashtag #RefugeesWelcome.

    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 15, 2016

    Attacks on at least two medical facilities in Syria today are just the latest of scores of apparently deliberate attacks on hospitals, clinics and medical personnel being committed in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law, Amnesty International said.

    “Russian and Syrian forces know full well that deliberate attacks on medical facilities are war crimes. All parties to the conflict must cease such horrific attacks, stop destroying medical facilities and allow medical workers to carry out their life-saving work without fear of being killed or injured in the line of duty,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    February 11, 2016
    NATO forces about to begin working in the Aegean Sea must operate in line with international law by carrying out search and rescue operations for people in distress, and not illegally return refugees back to Turkey, says Amnesty International.   “Hundreds of refugees, including many children, have already died this year attempting the treacherous journey across the Aegean. Any NATO ships that witness a boat in distress must provide immediate life-saving assistance,” said Iverna McGowan, Head of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office.   “In no way must NATO forces become yet one more barrier between refugees and the international protection they are legally entitled to. Intercepting refugees attempting to reach Europe and pushing them back to Turkey - where 2.5 million are already hosted - would be a serious violation of their right to claim asylum, and would fly in the face of international law.”  
    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 28, 2016


    A new plan to tackle unprecedented refugee flows to Europe, mooted by the Dutch Presidency of the European Union today, is fundamentally flawed since it would hinge on illegally returning asylum seekers and refugees from Greece to Turkey, Amnesty International warned.

    Plans to label Turkey a “safe third country” in order to ferry back tens of thousands of people from Greece without due process or access to asylum application procedures would blatantly violate both European and international law.

    “No one should be fooled by the humanitarian sheen of this fundamentally flawed proposal. It is political expediency, plain and simple, aimed at stopping the flows of desperate people across the Aegean Sea,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Director at Amnesty International.

    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.

    January 17, 2016

    Released 00.01 GST 18 January 2016

     Governments and aid agencies are failing to provide even basic protections to women refugees traveling from Syria and Iraq. New research conducted by Amnesty International shows that women and girl refugees face violence, assault, exploitation and sexual harassment at every stage of their journey, including on European soil.

    The organization interviewed 40 refugee women and girls in Germany and Norway last month who travelled from Turkey to Greece and then across the Balkans. All the women described feeling threatened and unsafe during the journey. Many reported that in almost all of the countries they passed through they experienced physical abuse and financial exploitation, being groped or pressured to have sex by smugglers, security staff or other refugees.

    January 08, 2016

    More than 100 Syrian refugees have been forcibly returned to Syria by the Lebanese authorities today, Amnesty International has learned.  Around 150 others are still stranded at Beirut’s Rafic Hariri International Airport and are at risk of imminent deportation in the coming hours. The authorities are reportedly planning to force them to leave on the next flight at 9:30pm local time.

    The refugees had arrived in Beirut on flights from Syria with the intention of travelling on to Turkey. They were due to depart on 7 January but were unable to leave as two Turkish Airlines flights were cancelled ahead of new visa regulations for Syrian refugees imposed by the Turkish authorities that came into force today restricting access to the country.

    January 08, 2016

    New testimony from residents living inside besieged Syrian villages gathered by Amnesty International, describing their desperate struggle to feed themselves through the winter months, highlights the crucial need to allow unimpeded humanitarian access to all civilians in need and lift all sieges on civilian populations across country.

    The organization has spoken to residents in the besieged town of Medaya in the Damascus Countryside governorate, and gathered fresh accounts of conditions in al-Fouaa and Kefraya in the Idleb Countryside governorate.  The starving residents described how families are surviving on little more that foraged leaves and boiled water. The villages are due to resume receiving aid following a deal involving the Syrian government, struck on 7 January 2016.


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