The Refugee Studies Centre and the Boston University School of Law International Human Rights Clinic are preparing joint reports on the refugee crisis in the countries neighbouring Syria and the responsibility of the international community towards the refugees and displaced persons in the Middle East and beyond. In advance of publication of the reports, we have submitted the following recommendations to UNHCR-ExCom for consideration at the 2014 session:
- The Syrian civil war has caused approximately 2.7 million persons to leave Syria since 2011, and 4.1 million are expected to have fled by the end of 2014. The refugee crisis has brought tremendous challenges to the region, and the main host states of Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt are stretched to the limit of their absorption capacities. We commend the tremendous efforts made by the states in the region to provide assistance and protection to the refugees, but it is now time for the rest of the global community to take a share of responsibility towards the massive displaced population before the crisis becomes more acute.
- Based on our research, our joint reports make an urgent call for a global Comprehensive Plan of Action ('CPA') that builds on UNHCR’s recommendation for international responsibility-sharing of the refugee crisis. We recommend a series of actions directed towards the host states in the Middle East, the EU, the US and the Americas, and the UN agencies. A solution-oriented CPA should incorporate temporary protection programs in at least three regions to absorb refugees fleeing Syria (Syrian nationals, Palestinians and refugees of other nationalities formerly resident in Syria) on a short-term basis; expanded resettlement programs prioritising pre-existing non-Syrian refugees from the Middle East; and expanded programs, such as humanitarian visas, special visas and family unity visas prioritising persons displaced from Syria.
- We note that Europe currently hosts about 3% of the 2.7 million registered refugees from Syria. We commend Germany for demonstrating solidarity and humanity in its significant expansion of humanitarian admission for Syrian refugees and encourage Germany to continue with these positive steps. We urge European and other states to follow Germany’s lead in expanding legal routes for refugees from Syria into their countries. We also urge European institutions to urgently consider ways of achieving further expansion of resettlement or temporary protection regimes in Europe, including the adoption of protected entry procedures for particularly vulnerable refugees at European countries’ diplomatic missions. With respect to the UK, whilst we note the initial efforts to assist refugees from Syria through the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme (VPR Scheme), we urge the UK government to build on these steps towards an even more expansive response in light of Germany's aforementioned recent initiative.
- We are dismayed by reports of unlawful detention, abuse and lack of adequate food, shelter and medical care for refugees in some European countries, and we are concerned that the fencing and increased surveillance of the Greek-Turkish border and proposed fencing of the Bulgarian-Turkish border will continue to push more refugees into dangerous sea journeys or into the arms of smugglers, causing avoidable suffering and death. We urge European states which currently do not comply with international or regional standards for treatment of persons in need of international protection to take immediate steps to achieve compliance, and for other European states and institutions to offer all necessary support to ensure the achievement of this goal.
For further information, please contact:
Professor Dawn Chatty, Director, Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford
Professor Susan Akram, Supervising Attorney, Boston University School of Law, International Human Rights Program
Cynthia Orchard, Consultant Researcher, Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford
Andrew Miller, Consultant Researcher, Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford