Europe’s Role in the Syrian Refugee Crisis

3 mins read

In broken English, Mohammed Alabdallah asked strangers on the internet how he and his family could receive “humanitarian asylum to the U.K.” Alabdallah also noted that his father “has a physical disability” and that his mother’s health is “miserable.” On a website dedicated to Syrian refugees in the European Union, Syrians like Alabdallah introduce themselves in the comments section and ask for help in seeking asylum.

Some write about their families and the conditions they are living in, such as Noman who explains that Aleppo, Syria was “destroyed.” Others discuss their careers in Syria, like Ahmed Aziz Ougley, who worked for “18 years in maintenance and repair, drilling equipment in [his] own workshop in Damascus.” While these Syrians come from different cities and hold different careers, they now share the same losses, namely their homes and jobs. Thousands of Syrians, like the authors of these comments, are seeking asylum in Europe.

According to BBC news, the crisis in Syria has only worsened since the beginning of uprisings in 2011, leading to an influx of Syrian migrants. The amount of refugees in Europe since the beginning of the crisis has increased exponentially, and continues to do so each day.

Since 2011, 4.1 million refugees have fled Syria. Last year, an estimated 280,000 refugees from Syria and neighboring countries such as Iraq migrated and crossed into the E.U. From January to September of this year, at least 350,000 people migrated and crossed E.U. borders, surpassing 2014’s number. Of the refugees who entered in 2014, 104,000 received refugee status, 60,000 received subsidiary protection status, and about 20,000 received the right to stay under humanitarian reasons. Thus in 2014, an estimated of 96,000 refugees that entered E.U. borders and received no status or asylum acceptance.

Syria’s immediate neighbors have accepted the greatest number of refugees so far, but many Syrians want to gain asylum and resettle in European nations for greater education and career opportunities. Countries throughout Europe have consistently provided monetary aid to the Syrian humanitarian cause, but most only accept a limited number of Syrian refugees. The European nations who have donated the most aid are the United Kingdom with 657 million pounds (1 billion dollars), Germany with 633 million euros (690 million dollars), and Norway with roughly 150 million euros (137 million dollars). Statistics from CNN show that the United Kingdom is the highest contributor of monetary aid from the European Union, yet has only accepted 5,000 asylum applicants, compared to Germany which will have accepted 800,000 Syrians by the end of the year. Germany and Sweden, with 64,700 asylum applications, receive and accept the most Syrian refugees in the E.U.

Mouse over the map to view each country’s financial contributions.

On September 22, European Union ministers established a quota of immigrants each country should accept based on that country’s economic stability, population size, unemployment rate, and number of accepted Syrian refugees since 2011. The New York Times featured graphs showing that Germany, Sweden, Greece, and Italy have all surpassed their quotas, while Spain and France have accepted fewer asylum seekers than their quota requires. David Cameron, prime minister of the U.K., pledged to accept 20,000 more refugees in the next five years; France also increased its acceptance rate to 24,000 refugees in the next two years. Despite such efforts, Germany still accepts more refugees and plans to accept 500,000 refugees a year. Germany’s asylum acceptance rates may bring stress to citizens. For example, to those living in Sumte, a small village with a population of 102 people in eastern Germany that discovered they had to welcome 750 asylum seekers.

The New York Times interviewed town members of Sumte after they learned that up to 750 asylum seekers would settle in their town until the Syrians received more permanent refugee statuses. Town members expressed that if the German government was to send refugees to a remote village like Sumte, Germany is at the point of accepting too many Syrian refugees. Others worried about Sumte’s lack of city systems and facilities to serve the new population size. Town members are also concerned about the disproportion of Syrians to Germans in Sumte. Nonetheless, the mayor of Sumte was confident the village would warmly welcome Syrians.

Like in Sumte, city officials and residents throughout Europe worry about the effects of accepting Syrian asylums. However, European acceptance of Syrian asylums relieves some of the stress currently placed on neighboring Syrian countries. With war still waging in Syria, causing an internal displacement of 16 million people, the number of refugees and asylum requests in neighboring countries is expected to rise. Increased support by European countries and international agencies will benefit the Syrian people in these troubling times.

Photographer: Freedom House on Flickr

Hi! I’m Sana Sheikholeslami, and I’m a senior at M-A. I'm excited to be working with the M-A Chronicle for the first time! I love learning about the world around me and I believe that journalism is one of the best mediums for doing so. I hope to foster an environment that celebrates learning and promotes positive change within our community. In my free time, I enjoy hiking, traveling, and spending time with friends!

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