We Can—and Should—Do More to Help Syrian Refugees

by Chris Toensing | published September 16, 2015

Imagine that 58 million Americans were streaming into Canada and Mexico, many with only a small satchel and the clothes on their backs. Picture another 102 million residents of the Eastern seaboard seeking refuge with relatives in the Midwest and West.

That terrifying mental exercise gives a sense of the sheer, staggering scale of the Syrian refugee crisis.

Half of Syria’s pre-war population of 22 million has been uprooted since the country’s horrendous civil war broke out in late 2011. Over 4 million people have escaped to neighboring countries and beyond, while an additional 7 million or so are displaced within the country.

Status-less in Cyber City

by Maisam Alahmed
published in MER275

When refugees from the Syrian war first began to stream into Jordan, the Jordanian Ministry of Interior registered the newcomers and placed them in the care of families, under the kafala system, mainly in the capital of Amman. The kafala or guardianship system has roots in Bedouin customs, but in modern times the term refers to how many Arab states handle migrant workers. A citizen or a company, known as a kafil, sponsors the migrant for a work visa and residency permit. At first this system accepted everyone, regardless of nationality or legal status—including 55 Palestinian families coming from Syria.

Please Subscribe to access the full contents of this article.

Eritrean Refugees' Trek Through the Americas

by Dan Connell
published in MER275

TAPACHULA, MEXICO—It is not hard to find the Eritreans in this low-key town near the Pacific coast a few miles north of the Guatemalan border. They gather on the front steps of the Palafox Hotel with the only other Africans here—Somalis, Ethiopians, a handful of Ghanaians, all of them migrants—or they crowd into the bustling Internet café across the street.

Conflict, Forced Migration and Property Claims

by Sandra Joireman , Jon Unruh | published June 10, 2015 - 9:27am

Amidst widespread fighting in Iraq and Syria, millions of distressed civilians have fled their homes. In Yemen as well, war has led to mass displacement as people try to escape threats to their lives and livelihoods. These instances of forced migration create overwhelming immediate problems such as the need for shelter, food and medical care. If insecurity remains a problem, then forced migration can lead to lengthy displacement of people within their own country or in a country of refuge. The longer displacement lasts, the more significant the problems that can develop with regard to land claims and property rights.

Crushing Repression of Eritrea's Citizens Is Driving Them Into Migrant Boats

by Dan Connell | published April 20, 2015

Abinet spent six years completing her national service in one of Eritrea’s ministries, but when she joined a banned Pentecostal church, she was arrested, interrogated, threatened, released and then shadowed in a clumsy attempt to identify other congregants. She arranged to be smuggled out of the country in 2013 and is now in a graduate program in human rights in Oslo.

Like Abinet, hundreds of Eritrean asylum seekers are landing on the shores of Italy. Eritreans are second only to Syrians in the number of boat arrivals, though the country is a fraction of Syria’s size and there’s no live civil war there.

A Grim New Phase in Yemen’s Migration History

by Marina de Regt | published April 15, 2015 - 10:27am

“Yemen’s conflict is getting so bad that some Yemenis are fleeing to Somalia,” read a recent headline at the Vice News website. The article mentions that 32 Yemenis, mainly women and children, made the trip to Berbera, a port town in Somaliland (and not Somalia). Hundreds of thousands of Somalis have crossed the Gulf of Aden since the outbreak of the Somali civil war in 1991. But now the tide seems to have turned.

Trapped in Refuge

The Syrian Crisis in Jordan Worsens

by Christiane Fröhlich , Matthew R. Stevens | published March 2, 2015

The daily lives of Syrian refugees in Jordan have always been difficult, but until the winter of 2014-2015, they were defined more by concern about making ends meet than outright panic.

From Sinai to Lampedusa: An Eritrean Journey

by Dan Connell | published January 19, 2015

Two human tragedies will forever scar Eritreans’ memories of the past decade, during which hundreds of thousands fled repression and despair in their homeland to seek sanctuary in more open, democratic societies: the brutal kidnapping, torture and ransom of refugees in the Egyptian Sinai and the drowning of hundreds more in the Mediterranean Sea when their criminally unseaworthy and overcrowded boats went down, a running disaster epitomized by the October 2013 Lampedusa shipwreck.

Ghosts of the Future

Fears of a Phantom Referendum Haunt the Turkish-Syrian Border

by Noga Malkin , Nick Danforth | published October 24, 2014

Hatay -- a Turkish province on the border with Syria that is now flooded with Syrian refugees -- has a special status in Turkey. In the words of a Syrian doctor to whom we spoke in the summer of 2014 and who failed to get a residency permit to live there, “It’s like [the province] is not exactly part of Turkey yet.” The doctor, a refugee for the past three years, explained that according to a secret international agreement, the province’s final status is to be determined by a referendum in 2039, a century after a complex population registry commonly thought of as a plebiscite ceded the area to Turkey.

Security and Resilience Among Syrian Refugees in Jordan

by Denis Sullivan , Sarah A. Tobin | published October 14, 2014

Imagine living in a refugee camp. For most, that phrase is enough to conjure images of makeshift tents, dusty pathways, queues for water and food, and above all, fear. Now imagine living in Zaatari refugee camp in a northern part of Jordan 7.5 miles from the Syrian border and Dar‘a region, sharing an area only about three square miles with 100,000 other refugees in one of the most densely populated “cities” in the Arab world, with near-constant shuffling and reshuffling of households, food and water distribution points, and other services, and refugees arriving and leaving all the time. Who, would you imagine, is responsible for keeping you and your family safe, fed and housed? Who will help you make sure your children can go to school, and do so safely?