The Situation of Syrian Refugees in the Neighbouring Countries: What Role Should the European Union Play?


An end of the Syrian conflict is not remotely within sight. So far, two million people have left the country, more than four million are displaced internally; at least seven million are affected by the conflict and are in need of humanitarian assistance. According to a UN estimate, 3.45 million people will have fled Syria by the end of this year. Three quarters of the Syrian refugees are received in neighbouring countries, the great majority in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, a situation which puts great political, economic and social pressure on these countries. The security of both the Syrian refugees and of the hosting communities is at risk. The European Union may be the largest donor with the total humanitarian assistance committed by the EU over 1.85 billion euro, but there is more the EU and its Member States should do. The refugee situation asks for a sustainable solution. EU assistance should not just focus on humanitarian aid, but also on strengthening the self-reliance of both the refugee communities and their hosting communities. Even in case of a negotiated settlement of the conflict, it would take a very long time for all the refugees to return. Part of them will have left the country for ever, even if they do not realise that yet. Others will still leave the country after a settlement of the conflict. It can be expected that tens or even hundreds of thousands of Syrians will end up in Europe somehow. The question is not only what the EU can do to help the regional host countries, the question is also how many Syrian refugees the EU and its Member States are willing to accept. Do we expect that Lebanon, probably the most vulnerable of the host countries, will manage to deal with the refugee situation with international support, or should we start thinking about a large scale resettlement of refugees to other countries, including the EU? And, what is the situation in Turkey where more than 600 000 Syrians have found refuge?

Product details
Date of Publication
November 2013
Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung European Union
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All rights reserved
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