Deteriorating quality of asylum in Middle East must be on global agenda

The critical need to respond to Syrian refugees entering Europe and their efforts to find protection for their families, must coincide with addressing the root causes affecting refugees to leave places of asylum in the neighbouring countries of Syria, the Director of Danish Refugee Council Middle East and North Africa, said Thursday.

With a funding crisis affecting the provision of protection services across the Middle East region, already fragile host economies reaching breaking-point, increasing legal restrictions and limitations on self-support opportunities pushing refugees further into destitution, it must be recognised that so far the international community have failed to adequately respond to the Syrian crises in the Middle East region.

“We know that 380,000 people have reached Europe by sea so far this year. But there are over four million Syrians living as refugees in the neighboring countries of Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq, and it is these people who are increasingly starting to move to Europe. This is not because people want to move, but because the quality of their asylum has deteriorated in the past year and they see no other option,” said Peter Klansø, the Director of DRC-MENA program.

The DRC welcomed the call made at recent World Bank conference in Marseille, France to reinvigorate the international response to support Middle East countries hosting Syrian refugee in their development agenda.

“We maintain that a minimum of US$4.53 billion is required to continue adequate programming to support refugees and host communities across Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. Putting that in perspective, if every European citizen donated US$6.20 we could reach that figure,” Peter Klansø said.

During the high-level meeting, consensus was reached amongst the 60 decision-making, finance and development representatives from Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia, Turkey and European countries of an urgent need to increase multi-year, predictable development resources, including the provision of concessional financing to strengthen the capacity of countries and communities hosting refugees to absorb the shocks on their economic and social fabric.

DRC continues it call to decision-makers to:

Fulfil funding commitments to reduce spiralling refugee protection vulnerability. Only $1.67 billion – 37 per cent – of total funding needs had been pledged against $4.53 billion required for programmes, according to the Regional Refugee & Resilience Plan (3RP) Syria Crisis progress report (2015).
Address growing legal restrictions and limitations on self-support opportunities to reduce the risk of more refugees sliding into poverty. Currently 86 per cent of Syrian refugees living outside of formal camps in Jordan are living below the Jordanian poverty line, and 70 per cent of all Syrian refugees in Lebanon are living below the Lebanese poverty line. Most Syrian refugees continue to be unable to access legal income earning opportunities to meet daily needs such as rent, food and healthcare. In Lebanon, 70 per cent of Syrian refugees and 90 per cent of Palestine refugees from Syria currently lack valid residency status.
Altering financing modalities to combines humanitarian support to the most vulnerable with development support to host countries is vital. It is clear that traditional ways of providing development funding have not been tailored to such a large scale, protracted crisis. Middle-income countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq do not qualify for large-scale grants such as those by World Bank to help them deal with the demographic and economic shocks of the crisis, and their growing financial burden the influx of refugees is having. A review of the development cooperation policies and development aid architecture is required.
“Refugees that our staff encounter on a daily basis are continually raising concerns about not being able to access health care, education for their children and an income due to restrictions on entering the local labor market. Europe is increasingly being seen as the only alternative,” Peter Klansø.

The most sustainable, long-term solution to this challenge is an end to the conflict in Syria. Until a political solution is found, however, the right of all civilians fleeing the conflict to seek the safety and international protection they need, and not to be returned to circumstances where their lives would be at risk, must be maintained.

“DRC is part of coordination efforts to maintain the highest standards of protection for Syrian refugees. But we should ask ourselves what dignity is afforded to people who cannot work to support their families, see their children missing school week after week and cannot find the money to pay for basic health care?” Peter Klansø said.

The DRC is a humanitarian, non-governmental, non-profit organisation founded in 1956 that works in more than 30 countries thought the world. In the Middle East and North Africa region, it provides humanitarian care and assistance for displaced people in Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Libya and Lebanon.