Press Conference “Original in Arabic”
September 16, 2015
The world has been deeply shocked by photos showing the suffering of Syrian refugees taking to the see and risking their lives in perilous and arduous journeys to reach Europe.
The crisis caused by the flow of refugees and immigrants is not something new, but has recently been further exacerbated and will grow into a disastrous global crisis. 100,000s of victims of war, including Syrians, feel that the world does nothing to end their suffering. Worried about an uncertain future lying ahead, 1000s now choose to immigrate and seek asylum in countries that provide a minimum feeling of safety.
1- Causes of migration:
The refugee crisis began in mid-2011 with the Assad regime’s adoption of a military option to crush the popular uprising demanding freedom. Hoping the uprising will not last long, the regime refused to recognize the legitimacy of the peaceful movement, and committed violations leading to the siege and storming of cities. This led to armed reactions by defectors from the Syrian army and local young men to defend themselves and their families. In response, the regime paved the way for extremism through facilitating the entry of extremists to Syria, and also released some extremists from its prisons under the guise of introducing reforms.
In parallel with the regime’s rejection of all kinds of political solution, millions of Syrians found themselves stuck between Assad’s barrel bombs and chemical weapons on the one hand, and ISIS’s knives and explosive belts on the other. Meanwhile, the international community has largely kept silent and failed to act decisively to support the rights and demands of the Syrian people.
These events and developments led to an overwhelming sense of disappointment for Syrians, with many of them feeling their future and that of their children is now threatened. Their options are now narrowing, they joined the waves of refugees travelling to the countries that enjoy a degree of safety and guarantee their future and that of their children, despite the difficulties they face in the arduous and long journey.
Here we cannot forget millions of Syrians who still cling to their land despite the harsh conditions, whether in the regime-held or in the areas out of its control. They continue to struggle for their homeland, their cause and their legitimate rights.
We stress that providing safety for refugees will not solve the crisis, as it is a process encouraged by the Assad regime to serve its project and re-consolidate its power. This crisis also constitutes a heavy burden on the European countries that receive refugees.
The increasing flow of refugees reflects the plans of the Iranian-backed Assad regime to systematically displace the Syrian people. We have already warned of the regime and Iran’s plans to bring about a demographic change and to partition Syria.
We call on the countries concerned, especially the transit countries, to deal with Syrians in a humane manner that ensures they are not exploited by human traffickers, to ease their suffering in accordance with international laws and conventions, and to provide them with temporary shelters, taking into account the weather conditions and the approaching of winter.
We call for the establishment of a safe zones to protect Syrians from Assad’s air force and barrel bombs and to protect them from ISIS attacks.
We also call for forcing Assad to agree to a political solution based on the formation of a transitional governing body full powers, and on Assad’s stepping down to stop the killing, destruction and displacement.
We emphasize that protection of refugees and supporting people’s rights to self-determination are enshrined in international laws and they are not choices to be made selectively.
2- Committee of Refugees
The Committee of Refugees in Transit Countries, formed by the Syrian Coalition, acts on the ground from the Turkish city of Izmir and through some of the Greek islands to the Balkans down to Austria and Germany.
The committee have recently met a large number of refugees filling the streets sometimes out on the sidewalks waiting to travel. We have felt great discontent among the refugees towards the media’s under-reporting of their perilous journeys and their portraying of these journeys as merely an attempt to escape from the hardships both inside Syria and in neighboring countries. Many of the refugees speak in depth about the circumstances forced them to seek asylum, to confront the unknown and the sorrow to stay away from home.
The committee’s presence in Izmir coincides with the tragic sinking of the boat carrying 12 refugees, most of whom are Syrians, including the child Aylan al-Kurdi and his family. It is painful how this tragedy that triggered the sympathy of refugees but did not dissuade them from taking the same journey, including those carrying children and babies with them.
At the political level, the committee has met with the Austrian Deputy Foreign Minister and contacted members of the Hungarian Foreign Ministry to explain the difficulties and the plight that Syrian refugees face. The committee called for facilitating the crossing of refugees to the host countries. It also reached out to foreign ministries of some countries, especially EU countries to follow-up on this issue. Moreover, the committee is following-up with the situation of refugees in Europe and the neighboring countries with international organizations and the situation of civilians in rebel-held areas.
The committee noted the diversity of the areas from which the refugees came, and noted their national, ethnic and sectarian diversity in addition to the presence of some pro-regime refugees among them. According the refugees who were interviewed, the most important motivations for migration are:
- Security harassment, repression, arbitrary detention that affects all age groups as well as brutal and systematic violations.
- Military operations carried out by the Assad regime and the militias fighting on its side.
- Lawlessness in regime-held areas.
- ISIS brutal practices.
- Conscription imposed by the Assad regime against civilians, including supporters of the regime.
- Random death due to the regime’s dropping of barrel bombs and toxic gases.
- Civilian casualties as a result of shelling and despair of getting appropriate treatment.
- A desire to complete study after the regime’s demolition of thousands of schools and its turning of universities buildings into headquarters for the army and the militias fighting on its side.
- The absence of basic services, especially health and education in many areas.
- Poor situation of refugees in neighboring countries.
- Lack of legalizing the conditions of refugees in neighboring countries, such as the civil status laws.
- Lack of basic rights such as the right to work amid complete inaction of the international institutions.
- Chaos and insecurity in some of the liberated areas.
- Syria’s uncertain future.