Geography Research Paper on The Syrian Refugee Crisis

The Syrian Refugee Crisis

            The Syrian civil war that began on March 2011 has resulted in the displacement of millions of Syrians from their homes. The conflict is responsible for the world’s biggest refugee crisis since World War II. Some of the displaced Syrians have fled to the neighboring countries, while others have relocated to safer regions within Syrian. This paper explores the Syrian refugee crisis. It achieves this by examining the reasons why people are leaving Syria, and identifying the number of people that have already fled the country. Furthermore, the paper examines the percentage of Syrians that have left their homes, and the characteristics of the Syrian people migrating to various countries. Finally, the paper explores examines what the Syrian refugees are doing in their new locations, and the effects being felt in both Syria and the migrants’ destinations.

            The Syrian civil conflict can be traced back to the 2011 Arab Spring activism in Egypt and Tunisia that sought to strengthen democracy in these countries (Wiersema, “Everything You Need”). The democracy activism in Tunisia and Egypt inspired the Syrian protesters, who then took to the Syrian streets in demonstrations against President Assad’s regime. However, the escalating protests and push for democratic reforms did not go well with the government. To avert the escalating pressure, the Syrian government under the leadership of President Assad responded with extreme measures, including torture and killing or Syrian protesters. The government troops’ decision to open fire at civilians only worked to intensify their anger. The civilians responded by firing back at the troops, thereby escalating conflict between government troops and protesters that organized themselves into armed rebel groups. This armed conflict escalated to the point that the belligerent began bombing each other, even in residential areas, thereby resulting in the death and injury of thousands of Syrian people, most of whom are innocent. To escape the intensifying bloody conflict, the Syrian people began fleeing their homes, with some migrating to neighboring countries and Europe, while other sought refuge in relatively safer locations within Syria.                 

Approximately nine million Syrians have fled their homes, with over three million of these refugees fleeing to Syria’s neighboring countries, while an estimated six and a half million are internally displaced within Syria (Syrian Refugees, “A Snapshot of the Crisis”). With the continuing conflict, the number of Syrian refugees is expected to rise further. The number of men, women, and children fleeing across Syria’s borders to run away from the bloody civil war that has engulfed the country has made Syria’s refugee exodus one of the largest forced migration since the end of the Second World War (Rodgers et al. “Syria’s Refugee Exodus”). The United Nations data indicates that Syria had a population of about 21.89 million people by the end of the year 2012. Since the Syrian conflict has displaced about nine and a half million Syrians, it is therefore evident that the conflict has displaced about 43.4 percent of the Syrian population, which is close to half of the country’s population. About 14 percent of the Syrian population has fled to neighboring countries and Europe to escape the bloody conflict that has engulfed Syria since 2011. These facts clearly indicate that the Syrian civil war has created the world’s biggest refugee crisis in recent history, particularly after the Second World War.           

The characteristics of Syrians migrating to various countries to escape the bloody war indicate existence of an ethnic dimension in the conflict. The refugee registration data indicates that the largest number of migrants come from regions having strong anti-government movements, while fewer are from provinces that are home to ethnic groups considered as loyal government supporters (Rodgers et al. “Syria’s Refugee Exodus”). The Syrian population is comprised of a sectarian and ethnic mix of Sunnis, Alawites, Kurds, Christians, and the Druze. President Assad comes from the Alawite, a minority clan that has ruled Syria since 1970. Sunni Muslim constitutes the majority of the Syrian population, but has for years declined to associate themselves with the Assad-led government. The Kurds and the Sunni Muslim comprise the majority of refugees that have fled to neighboring countries.

Majority of Syrians displaced by the civil war have crossed into Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey, with Lebanon alone hosting close to 1.2 million Syrian refugees (Gambino and Jalabi, “Syria’s Civil War”). Most of these displaced Syrians are residing in refugee camps where they mainly depend on humanitarian aid for survival. Humanitarian organizations have been providing the Syrian refugees food supplies, medical services, shelter, establishing education centers, among other assistance. Some of the refugees live in towns and cities, but have continued to receive humanitarian assistance as those living in camps. The Syrian refugees have continued to search for employment in their new locations in order to improve their living conditions. Most of them lost all their wealth when they fled from their homes, and are now attempting to put their lives together once again.

The effects of the Syrian refugee crisis are being felt both in Syria and their new destinations outside Syria. The exodus of millions of people from Syria has caused labor shortage in the country. With reduced economic activities and increasing uncertainty, the Syrian economy has continued to decline, thereby resulting in deteriorating standards of living in the country. The effects of the Syrian refugee migration have also been felt in neighboring countries and some European countries where they are migrating to. The effects are being felt in the labor market, especially in Lebanon, as it is hosting the largest number of these refugees. The Syrian refugees have become a cheap source of labor in the Lebanese economy. Lebanese employers are therefore finding it cheaper to employ the Syrian refugees as their cheap labor would increase their profitability. Some Lebanese employers have been laying-off Lebanese citizens so that they can hire cheaper labor provided by the Syrian refugees. Such actions have started increasing the hostility of the Lebanese people against the Syrian as they view them as a threat to their job security and employment opportunities (International Labor Organization 36-37). In Turkey, the flooding of Syrian refugees into the country has strained the resources previously available to the local people. The Turkish border residents have been complaining about the effects of Syrian refugee crisis in their daily lives. For instance, they are complaining that the presence of these refugees in their local towns have caused rental prices for housing to rise, while others claim that their wages have dropped significantly because these refugees are accepting lower wages (Bohn, “Syrian Refugees Flood”). Turkish citizens are complaining that the Syrian refugees are crowding public facilities such as schools and hospitals, thus resulting in deteriorating quality of education and health services extended to the Turkish people. The increasing concentration of Syrian refugees in camps is also exposing the hosting communities to disease outbreak risks. The host countries are also using a lot of valuable resources to support Syrian refugees. These factors are triggering social unrest and raising public anger against Syrian refugees. Conversely, Syrian refugees are complaining of discrimination, exploitation by landlords, and increased abuses stemming from local resentment (Dettmer, “In Turkey, Resentment Builds”).     

In conclusion, it is evident that the Syrian civil war has caused one of the world’s biggest humanitarian crises. It has displaced millions of Syrians from their homes, with some of them fleeing to neighboring countries and Europe. This has resulted to adverse effects in both Syria and their foreign destinations. Managing the Syrian refuge crisis requires international intervention and support to improve the refugees’ conditions of living, while simultaneously minimizing its spill-over effects.

Works Cited

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Dettmer, Jamie. “In Turkey, Resentment Builds Over Syrian Refugees.” Voice of America, 12 Nov. 2014. Web. 14 Nov. 2014. <http://www.voanews.com/content/resentment-builds-in-turkey-over-syrian-refugees/2517491.html>.

Gambino, Lauren, and Raya Jalabi. “Syria’s civil war has forced 3m refugees to flee the country- why is the US accepting so few?. ” The Guardian, 7 Oct. 2014. Web. 13 Nov. 2014. <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/06/syria-refugees-syria-civil-war-guide>.  

International Labor Organization. “Assessment of the impact of Syrian refugees in Lebanon and their employment profile.” ILO Regional Office for Arab States, 2014. Web. 13 Nov. 2014. <http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—arabstates/—ro-beirut/documents/publication/wcms_240134.pdf>.

Rodgers, Lucy, Gerry Fletcher, Stephen Connor, and Tom Maslen. “Syria’s Refugee Exodus.” BBC, 29 May 2014. Web. 13 Nov. 2014. <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-24900116>. 

Syrian Refugees. “A Snapshot of the Crisis – In the Middle_East and Europe.” Oct. 2014. Web. 13 Nov. 2014. <http://syrianrefugees.eu/>. 

United Nations Data. “Syria Arab Republic.” United Nations. 2012. Web. 13 Nov. 2014. <https://data.un.org/CountryProfile.aspx?crName=Syrian%20Arab%20Republic>.

Wiersema, Alisa. “Everything You Need to Know About the Syrian civil War.” ABC NEWS, 31 Aug. 2013. Web. 13 Nov. 2014. <http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/syrian-civil-war/story?id=20112311>.