Have you ever thought of taking to the streets on a cold winter day with no possessions, money, food or even an ID card? Can you imagine having your children with you and having nothing to protect them or keep them warm with? Six million Syrians had never thought of that either, but today they have all had to abandon their homes. For these people who have become refugees, the real problem starts now; dispersed families and poor and unhealthy living conditions. Thousands losing their lives on the roads.
It is the innocent Syrian people who have been affected by the harsh civil war raging in Syria for years. But how many people know that there are people in Syria who lived under very difficult conditions even before the civil war?
Syria was one of the countries with the most refugee camps even before the civil war. Some of those in the very worst conditions in Syria, which hosts two million refugees in camps, are the Palestinians living there as refugees. The population of the Yarmouk refugee camp, initially set up for Palestinians fleeing 1948 Arab-Israeli war, reached 600,000 with increasing waves of migration. Although some people have left the camp as the civil war went on, it still has a large refugee population. Life in the camp - which Assad’s forces first attempted to intimidate with attacks and then placed under an embargo, refusing to allow food and medicines in - is becoming harder by the day. So much so that when people were forced for want of food to try and live on tree leaves last year, Syrian religious scholars issued a fatwa saying that “dog and cat meat can be eaten.” That is by itself sufficient to show the conditions the people there are struggling to survive in. The refugees in the Yarmouk camp need urgent humanitarian assistance.
This is of course only one of the most urgent situations but the word “refugee” now represents the same difficulty for almost everyone. There is no improvement in the lives of all refugees, particularly in the Middle East, not just those forced to depart from Syria. Increasing numbers of people are being forced to abandon the places they live in every year. Some of these migrate within the country concerned, while the rest move to either neighboring or more distant lands. Afghan refugees, 95% of whom have sought refuge in neighboring countries such as Pakistan and Iran, represent the largest part of the world’s refugees; one in every four refugees in the world is an Afghan. Afghanistan is followed by Somalia and Iraq. There are 450,000 UN-registered refugees in Lebanon. These refugees, living in 12 settlements under very harsh circumstances, are trying to survive in poverty. Their fundamental rights are denied them and they lack even symbolic political rights. In other words, these people are still living as refugees with no citizenship rights after 66 years. New generations are being born and growing up in refugee camps.
So how can this problem of refugees be solved? The first requirement for people forced to migrate because of troubles at home is the right to enter countries where they can be safe and can move around freely. In this way, they will not be forced to wait at border crossings after long journeys, and at least the first step in the journey will be made easier. There is an urgent need for a union of Muslim states, resembling the European Union, to be set up to resolve this problem and the growing refugee question in the Middle East. In this way, citizens of countries that enjoy free rights of movement into one another, like the EU, will have a way out when troubles arise and will be able to find a humanitarian corridor. Rights such as dual nationality and the right to work without visas will put an end to conditions that restrict refugees and prevent them from living under humane conditions and provide a solution that all people of good conscience can be comfortable with.
Even when we look at the implementation of a more humane phase by improving the lives of refugees, we still see the need for the Middle East to have its own union. In order for there to be a rapid solution to this emergency situation without lengthy political and bureaucratic procedures, everyone who espouses freedom and equality should call for such a union.
Adnan Oktar's article on Kuwait Times: