Despite the extraordinary commitments that Europe has taken to assist in the migration crisis, Europe’s neighbors are taking in literally millions more. While Europe finds itself facing the need to relocate 160,000 migrants and faces a potential 850,000more over the next year, this number pales in comparison to what is occurring in Turkey and Lebanon. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there are currently 3 million refugees living in Turkey and Syria. A number that is six times the 500,000 asylum seekers Germany has volunteered to allow ineach year.
Moreover, the refugees currently being accepted into Europe amount to around .1% of the total population of the continent, and at most can be expected to swell to .15%. Currently the EU has committed a huge sum of money, 780 million euro, towards assisting host countries of refugees in relocation and social services. However, the total economic impact of the crisis on Turkey and Lebanon while incalculable, is rumored to be in the billions.
Turkey busting at the seams
The true impact of this has yet to be felt, but some solution and relief for Turkey must come from somewhere. Unlike in Europe, Syrian refugees are so numerous in Turkey that they are forced to live in poor conditions and are unable to work. In addition, theUNHCR funds to assist the 2 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey are beginning to run out.
While countries have contributed towards the UNHCR to help Turkey to administer refugees, there is a 463 million budget deficit as of January 2015. This has made camp conditions harsher and with electoral setbacks for Turkey’s pro-migrant party, many Syrians in Turkey are beginning to feel that it is time to leave. If this comes to pass then Europe could find itself facing an even larger crisis.
Situation worsening in Lebanon
In Lebanon, conditions are even worse than Turkey and with no sign of the end to civil war in Syria circumstances are unlikely to improve. The frantic surge of 1.2 million refugees into Lebanon has contributed to a population increase of 20% since 2011 and has completely overwhelmed the few social services and mechanisms available to the Lebanese government. The deadlocked Lebanese government has been unable to form a policy on Syrian refugees and as a result many live with no legal status or protection under the law, relying on a paltry 13.50 a month in food assistance.
Adding to the strain, Lebanon refuses to count Syrians as being official refugees, forcing them to pay a heavy fee each year in order to remain in the country. Most cannot pay this and live in the country illegally, renting out single rooms for hundreds of dollars each month. Unable to work, without access to medical care, adequate housing, and with an unwilling host of a government most in Lebanon dream of coming to Europe. However, it takes 5,000 dollars or more to make it to Europe from Lebanon and the surrounding countries, and many are forced to acknowledge the reality that unless they get relief from an outside source they will likely not be allowed to leave.
More aid needed
In any crisis, the rich always escape first. They have the resources and the education necessary to see what is coming and to protect themselves from the crisis to come. The middle class soon follows, but the poor in many cases, are left behind. They have spilled into Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon and the flow is not slowing down. These countries are the true ‘frontline states,’ and it is with them that Europe and the global community should be supplying more aid to. Direct aid to these nations, while expensive, could prove to be life saving and cost saving measures in the future. The actions of Europe and its leaders have been admirable in the migration crisis, but if the goal is truly to save lives and help those affected by civil war in Syria then aid must be extended to those who never make it to Europe. If not, only the dignity depriving cloud of the refugee camp waits for them.