Europe is failing in Syria

With the beginning of the civil war in 2011, Cap Anamur began supporting the population in Syria, which was being regularly bombarded with no restraint. At a certain point, with the conflict intensifying and violence escalating, we decided to suspend our project in Syria in order to ensure our employees’ security, and resumed support for the Syrian population in the refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon. Our wish to help directly inside Syria, however, remained. That is why one of our project coordinators recently took the risk and spent ten days inside the country from which most people flee. The journey resulted more complicated than initially foreseen. Only last night did this Cap Anamur staff member manage to safely leave the country. His report is alarming.

“People are behaving like ants. In panic and with no clear destination they flee from one place to another, waiting expectantly alongside the Israeli border, then again alongside the Jordanian border, clueless as to where to go next. Their faces are marked by evident fear for their lives”. This is the first account by our project coordinator after regaining Jordanian territory and contacting our office in Cologne. He tells of around 200,000 people seeking refuge at the Jordanian border alone, while many more are crossing the country. “Living conditions are catastrophic. Electricity is available via small solar appliances at best, water and food supplies are scarce and plastic sheeting or empty buildings serve as accommodation. And don’t even get me started on the sanitary conditions”, he says.

The most recent military offensive in the Daraa region, in the country’s south, has drastically worsened the situation for civilians. While Europe’s attention is focussed on the football world cup in Russia, that country’s troops are ruthlessly bombarding both rebels and civilians in Daraa. Over a quarter of a million people, that previously were not considering leaving their homes, are now on the run. Since neither Israel nor Jordan are willing to open their borders, these people are trapped inside their own country.

Equally disappointing is the lack of an outcry in Europe, also amongst German political parties. While all parties have unanimously vowed to fight the root causes leading to mass flight, Syrians who had decided not to leave their country and are now trapped inside it now receive neither attention nor support. Only last June did German chancellor Merkel, during a visit to a refugee camp in Jordan, stress that a return home of Syrian refugees was in everybody’s interest, adding, “these have to, however, be safe conditions to which a return can be considered”. This possibility now seems extremely remote.

Cap Anamur is currently evaluating how displaced Syrians might be supported from either Jordan or Israel. The urgently needed delivery of life-saving medicine seems currently not feasible, since medical personnel and health structures that cooperate with foreign NGOs are being accused by Assad’s regime of collaboration with the opposition. For us, however, turning a blind eye, as political parties in Germany are currently doing, is not an option.

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