Policies, Support Needed to Aid Syrian Refugee Crisis

Photo Courtesy of IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation, Flickr Creative Commons

The Syrian Civil War is leaving millions of refugees homeless. Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey took in the majority of the four million Syrian refugees, but these people are not allowed to work because these countries have very high employment rates. These countries are also concerned that the Syrian refugees will compete with their own citizens for jobs, but if policies are revised and new ones are put in place, these refugees can be self-reliant.

Before the war, Syria was a middle-income country. Among these refugees are teachers, farmers, construction workers, doctors and businessmen who have so much to contribute to society. Also among these refugees are children, who are witnessing extreme tragedies at very young ages. These children are now growing up without education, healthcare and houses.

Just like other tragedies that occur throughout the world, the children — without basic access to proper education and decent healthcare— are the ones mostly affected by the Syrian Civil War, and are left to live in tents or basements.

Most of the refugees interviewed by Shelly Culbertson, analyst for the Rand Corporation, have stated multiple times that they do not need aid and can self-sustain if they could only work. If these adults can work, their children do not have to. The children can then attend school and live the lives that they should be entitled to.

Countries should not only take in large numbers of refugees, but should also develop new policies that will allow refugees to work without hurting their citizens.

Funding is crucial to support humanitarian efforts to increase living conditions. Most of the money coming from both traditional and nontraditional donors is used to supply basic needs such as food, shelter and sanitation. The funds are also used to provide health care, education and protection. However, the current amount of funds donated is not enough to adequately help the refugees in need. More importantly, new policies regarding how to efficiently use resources are needed.

Because adults cannot work, around half of the Syrian refugee children do not attend school and work in improper conditions during the time they should be in school. In Jordan, 10 percent of Syrian children are in child labor. Girls end up in early marriage because their parents cannot afford to raise them.

Culbertson interviewed refugees and officials in Beirut, Jordan and Turkey, and even spoke with a Syrian man in August who is the father of "street children” who hawk tissues on the streets. Although this father is criticized because his children work, if his children do not sell tissues this family will starve. His family lived in a tent on the beach that was destroyed in a storm.

Camps have been set up to accommodate refugees, but they are not large enough to hold all of the refugees. Also, many of the refugees interviewed by Culbertson and featured in Newsweek do not wish to live in these camps, which one even describes as “not fit for humans.” The people wish for independence, the ability to work for a living and decent housing.  

Unique to other refugee crises throughout history, the Syrian refugee crisis is majorly urban. According to Newsweek, more than 80 percent of Syrian refugees live in cities, towns or informal settlements, instead of formally serviced camps. Although many of these refugees left Syria with some savings, they have to resort to negative methods once their savings run out to make ends meet, such as child labor or early marriage. Sadly enough, even these methods are not always enough to provide adequate living.