Tag Archives: Syrian Refugees

Germany Pledges Acceptance of 5,000 More Syrians

The German government announced on December 6th that it will accept an additional 5,000 Syrian refugees in the country, bringing the total number as part of the current Humanitarian Assistance Program to 10,000.

This program stipulates that Syrian refugees are to be granted temporary asylum for two years, at which time they may apply for an extension if the crisis in Syria is still ongoing. While in Germany they will have access to healthcare, education, and have access to the labor market.

Upon arrival the Syrians are taken to a transit camp such as the one in Friedland near Göttingen, where they will stay for about two weeks and take courses in basic German language, customs, plus the health and education systems. After their time in the transit camp the refugees will move to various locations throughout the country.

The first group of highly vulnerable Syrian refugees – identified as such based on surviving torture among other circumstances – arrived in the country last September with the help of the United Nations, numbering 107. This was the UN’s first resettlement of Syrian refugees. The UN High Commission on Refugees is aiming to resettle 12,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year.

Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and other European countries have pledged to accept Syrian refugees in the tens or hundreds. Sweden recently announced any Syrian seeking asylum would be accepted. Earlier statements by US State Department officials in August indicated it would accept 2,000 Syrian refugees, and as of October 8th of this year the actual number accepted had reached approximately 90, in addition to a reported $1.3 billion spent on emergency relief aid.

Syria’s neighbors have accepted over a million displaced Syrian refugees in the past six months.

The German Interior Ministry estimates that around 24,000 Syrian refugees have entered the country independently since the conflict began, and as the situation in Syria continues to look grim the flow of refugees will certainly not decrease.

Grim Situation in Syria Threatens Upcoming Peace Talks

As the conflict in Syria approaches the three-year mark this March, unless peace negotiations scheduled to take place in Geneva starting January 22nd are successful the situation will likely become worse. There is already talk among different rebel groups regarding the civil war that will follow the toppling of Assad, as different factions battle each other for territory and influence.

Termed the Geneva II summit, representatives will include delegations from the Assad government, rebel groups, the US, Russia, France, Britain, Germany, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, China, the UN, and the EU.

There is still a question if representatives of the Iranian government, who are heavy supporters of Assad, will be invited over opposition from some Western countries such as the US and Britain because the Iranian government has not acknowledged the framework from the first Geneva summit held last year at the end of June. However many are skeptical this opposition will be maintained in light of the fact that Iranian participation in a deal is crucial, and Tehran has expressed a willingness to attend should it be invited.

Currently the primary armed groups on the ground in Syria include the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (al-Sham being the classical Arabic name for Syria), Jabhat al-Nusra (The Support Front for the People of the Levant) also known as the al-Nusra Front, the Free Syrian Army, and of course Bashar al-Assad’s government forces.

To date the Syrian conflict has left over seven million Syrians displaced and over 100,000 killed.

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Sweden Grants Asylum to Syrians

As of September 3rd 2013, any Syrian refugee who applies for asylum in Sweden will be granted a residence permit. Since that decision taken by the Swedish immigration authority Migrationsverket, there have been over 5,500 Syrians who have successfully claimed asylum based on that ruling.

As of September 2013, Sweden had granted asylum to 14,700 Syrians in total. As we approach the end of the year the Swedish migration agency has processed 56,000 asylum cases, and that number is expected to rise to around 69,000 cases in 2014. Although these latter figures are for the total number of asylum seekers in Sweden – not just Syrians – two of the three largest factors affecting asylee numbers are EU decisions on the settlement of Syrian refugees throughout Europe and the developments of the conflict in Syria.

Unfortunately based on the fact that the residence permits being granted are permanent, the Swedish government’s estimation that the conflict will end soon appears to be grim.

So far Sweden is the only European country to offer such a policy, and members of the current government state they hope other EU countries follow suit, based both on political as well as moral grounds. However when it comes to the related issue of immigration, as most of Europe continues to debate austerity measures that have come with tough economic times, political motivations surrounding immigration have invariably waned, demonstrated most obviously by the recent comments of the UK Prime Minister David Cameron on proposed EU migrant benefit cuts and additional tightening of intra-European immigration.

Still the UK is widely seen as another favorable location to apply for asylum, where there was a recent demonstration in the port of Calais across the channel in early October where several Syrian refugees threatened to jump off the roof of a ferry terminal unless they were granted passage to the UK where they believed they could gain asylum. However the British migration authorities currently have the policy to consider each asylum application on a case-by-case basis, in contrast to Sweden’s recent announcement.

Sweden has long held a moral high ground among European nations – and indeed the world – for accepting refugees. In 2006 following three years of American-led boots on the ground in Iraq, Sweden accepted 9,000 Iraqi refugees. And that year Södertälje, a quaint city to the south of Stockholm, accepted twice as many Iraqi refugees as the entire United States.

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