Omar S. Dahi writes: One of the many plot lines lost in the summertime discussions of a US strike on Syria is the pace of refugee movement out of the country. As it stands, the refugee crisis is overwhelming and likely to stay that way. Another external military intervention would further accelerate the mass flight and exacerbate what is already a humanitarian emergency.
The Syrian refugee crisis became too large too quickly for any real planning of ameliorative measures to take place. At the end of September 2012, one year ago, there were less than 240,000 registered refugees in total. Today, according to UN High Commissioner for Refugees data, the number is 2 million. And that is not to speak of the millions more internally displaced persons, or IDPs, who have fled their homes but remained inside Syrian borders. Most refugees express a desire to go home, but the statistics are not on the side of return. The UNHCR defines “protracted refugee situations” as those in which refugees have lived in exile for five years or more with no serious prospect of finding a “durable solution,” meaning repatriation, integration into the host country or resettlement in a third country. By this definition, two thirds of all globally registered refugees — over 7 million people — are in “protracted” limbo. Many Syrians are likely to join them.
A number of factors make the evolving Syrian refugee crisis particularly daunting. First, the displacement comes as part of a brutal civil conflict that shows no sign of abating. Repatriation is therefore unrealistic, as is waiting until the “end of the conflict” to discuss the long-term problems of refugees. The throngs of refugees and IDPs need extensive humanitarian assistance now to meet basic needs. Second, there is now a sizable refugee population in at least five countries — Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey — implying the necessity of a large-scale, internationally coordinated effort at durable solutions. None of these host countries are eager to grant Syrians permanent residency; several have repeatedly vowed not to. [Continue reading…]