The humanitarian tragedy in Syria once again shows the paradoxes of globalization, and perhaps more than any other event in recent history. When it comes to merchandise and capital, borders are open and welcoming. But when it comes to people, the restrictions are tighter, there is abuse, refusal and people are repeatedly viewed as a threat.
The situation is worsening and the number of Syrians needing urgent assistance has reached 10.8 million – almost half of the 22 million population, according to the U.N. The current estimate of 3.5 million people living in areas that are difficult or impossible for humanitarian workers to reach is also likely to have increased to 4.7 million people, the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his monthly report to the U.N. Security Council. A total of 6.4 million people, roughly one third of the population, are internally displaced in Syria, the largest number in the world, while over 3.2 million have fled the country and have been displaced to neighboring countries with an uncertain timetable for return. Women and children make up three-quarters of the total refugee population.
Countries neighboring Syria are reaching a dangerous point. For example, in Lebanon, where 1.19 million refugees seek help, shelter remains a serious concern for most of the refugee families. Meanwhile, over 615,000 refugees were registered in Jordan. Around 15 percent are living in camps in Zatari and Azraq while the rest reside in host communities. According to reports, around 2,000 people are currently in the "no man's land" between Syria and Jordan, as a result of Jordan's tight border controls. In Iraq, where 95 percent of the 215,000 Syrian refugees reside in the Kurdish region, there are now growing concerns, following the recent escalation of violence in the country.
Unfortunately, in parallel with the rise of refugee numbers, reports show that the mistreatment of Syrian refugees by authorities has escalated. The latest video footage posted on the Internet showing mistreatment of Syrian refugees in Lebanon is shocking. The report claiming Syrian asylum seekers were beaten by Bulgarian border police or the news that asylum seekers were mistreated by security guards and even forced to lie in vomit-filled beds are appalling. Not to mention the reports last year showing thousands of Syrian refugee children living in Jordan at risk of abuse, exploitation and neglect as well as the adults at risk of torture, and the threats against Syrians in Egypt after the military coup.
But it's been said that the only thing worse than being a Syrian refugee is being a Palestinian refugee from Syria in countries such as Lebanon. According to several reports, they are compelled to pay an additional entrance charge at the borders and receive systematically less aid than Syrians.
And there is these tragic drowning cases of refugees on migration routes to Europe. The EU, which accounts for around 30 percent of global wealth but has accepted around only 125,000 Syrians since the beginning of the conflict, are adopting policies based on deterrence and restriction to keep them out of Europe, rather than opening up safe pathways to protection and resettlement.
Turkey, a shelter of over 843,000 Syrian refugees (according to authorities, the real number is much higher than that), accepted around 130,000 refugees in four days last week, more than the total number of Syrians than the whole EU combined. The country, which is strongly attacked for its "open door" policy, even by news agencies like Reuters, is trying to accomplish its humanitarian duty under the harsh pressure of Western opinion-makers and to convince the world that the situation will worsen unless instability in the region is prevented for a long time. It still is.