Sunday, 20 September 2015
Until the Assad regime’s murderous tyranny is halted, the refugee crisis facing Europe will continue to worsen
"The facts paint an extraordinarily clear picture. Of the documented civilian deaths in Syria since 2011, a staggering 97% of victims were killed by Assad government forces, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR). Thus, if Europe is to have any success in stemming the flow of refugees, it must look beyond their unsustainable and financially costly absorption and towards tackling the perpetrators of their plight.
The dogmatic non-interventionism of the West that triumphed in 2013 retains validity, yet the moral and political imperative here lies with concerted action. Here, the complexity of the political and military situation on the ground can prove advantageous. Rather than subscribing to the pacifist-interventionist binary paradigm traditionally dominating the discourse, policy-makers should adopt more nuanced positions befitting reality.
This could involve the ‘hard military force’ David Cameron referred to, taking the form of a defensive “no-fly zone” increasingly called for by Syrian civil society groups and human rights organisations, as well as international institutions such as the International Crisis Group. Considering the International Coalition is already operating in Syria against IS, it’s certainly not beyond its capabilities to expand its mission to encompass the Syrian Arab Air force – Assad’s major instrument inflicting misery. Global opposition to the regime’s use of barrel bombs, crude explosive devices filled with shrapnel and dropped predominantly on civilian areas, counts for little so long as the bombs remain the largest cause of civilian casualties.
A second approach to tackling the refugee crisis could involve supporting Syrian civil society and the political opposition with the governance of areas currently liberated from Assad. Refugees continue to flee rebel-liberated areas such as Idlib due to the ineffective and chaotic nature of self-rule, alongside the continued use of barrel bombs by Assad. Addressing such a failure by creating a safe-zone, as favoured by the Turkish government and Syrian opposition, would create a safe haven in which refugees could return to and in which local governance could operate without attacks from Assad. Such a policy would work to alleviate the current refugee crisis, whilst also contributing to creating the foundations for the essential long-term Syrian-led reconstruction of Syria, in the seemingly inevitable and eventual post-Assad era.
To borrow UK PM David Cameron’s words, if there is to be a long-term solution to the refugee crisis, then Europe must act with its “head and its heart.” Simply taking in more refugees, while morally commendable, will only perpetuate an unsustainable reality. Europe must think – and act – decisively. To end the Syrian refugee crisis, alleviate the suffering of millions and facilitate the healing of a torn nation, then we must pursue its primary culprit: the Assad regime."