Friday March 27, 2015

UN refugee commission calls for all of Europe to help Syrian refugees

A Syrian refugee family eats at the 'Friedland' refugee camp in the central German village of Friedland.

A Syrian refugee family eats at the 'Friedland' refugee camp in the central German village of Friedland. (REUTERS/Ina Fassbender)

Nearly 4 million refugees are believed to have escaped the war in Syria. Most are concentrated in the neighbouring countries of Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. But many thousands, have continued on to Europe, where they're most likely to land on the shores of Italy and Greece... putting an enormous strain on resources in those coastal countries.

"I left Syria because of the war. Life was unbearable, I had no food. You never know when bombs will strike you or your house, or family. In Damascus I've left my wife and 5 children, one is missing. Once I'll be settled somewhere, they'll come to reach me." - Youssef, a Syrian refugee in Milan, Italy.

As the situation in Syria continues to deteriorate, rather than get any better, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees is calling on European countries to do more to help. They're asking the European Union to take collective responsibility for those who have already arrived, and the many more expected to come.

The numbers are huge and growing — new figures released by the UNHCR yesterday show 150,000 Syrians sought asylum in Europe in 2014; that's triple the number of the previous year... and brings the total to about 220,000 since the war broke out.

Italy and Greece have been receiving the most refugees with many moving on to Germany and Sweden.

Christopher Hein is the director of the Italian Council for Refugees in Rome.

'There are many reasons to leave Syria right now: you are afraid you won't be alive the next morning. The only thing I expect to find in northern Europe is instruction for my children. I just want my children to have a quiet life and some schooling.' - Ahmed, Syrian Kurd who fled Aleppo in 2012, and now in Italy

Ahmed is hoping that he and his family can start a new life, in Sweden... which together with Germany, Italy and Greece, has been taking in the lion's share of Syrian refugees within Europe.

But as the Syrian civil war enters its fifth year this month, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees is calling for more European countries to do more to help resettle the war's refugees.

William Spindler is the Senior Communications Officer with the UNHCR. He was in Geneva. 

Cynthia Orchard has been watching the Syrian refugee crisis since it first began to unfold, just over four years ago. She's a lawyer with expertise in refugee and human rights law, who now works as an independent consultant. We reached her today, in Almaty, Kazakhstan. 


This segment was produced by The Current's Lara O'Brien, Liz Hoath and Ines Colabrese.