Refugees pushed to­ward Europe by over­stretched Mideast re­sources

Toronto Star - - REFUGEE CRISIS - MARAM MAZEN THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

CAIRO— The mas­sive in­crease in Syr­i­ans seek­ing refuge in Europe is largely driven by the in­abil­ity of over­whelmed Mideast coun­tries to cope with the cri­sis as re­sources dry up, a se­nior of­fi­cial with the In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Mi­gra­tion said Wed­nes­day.

The ca­pac­ity of coun­tries such as Le­banon and Jor­dan “have reached their ut­most lim­its,” prompt­ing Syri- ans to seek refuge else­where and con­tribut­ing to the tide of mi­grants and refugees head­ing to Europe, said Has­san Ab­del Moneim Mostafa, a se­nior re­gional ad­viser with IOM.

“The refugees know and un­der­stand and feel and are liv­ing this,” Mostafa said. “And there­fore they turn to look for a so­lu­tion. What is the so­lu­tion? Let’s knock on Europe’s doors as this is a re­gion we haven’t yet gone to.”

The vast ma­jor­ity of Syria’s four mil­lion refugees re­side in neigh­bour­ing Tur­key, Le­banon, Jor­dan and Iraq. Le­banon hosts 1.1 mil­lion, equiv­a­lent to a quar­ter of its pop­u­la­tion.

But life in these coun­tries is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult. Faced with grow­ing fund­ing gaps, in­ter­na­tional agen­cies have cut back on aid to refugees. More than one-third of 630,000 Syr­ian refugees in Jor­dan were dropped from a UN food voucher pro­gram this month. The IOM says more than 464,000 mi­grants and refugees crossed the Mediter­ranean Sea to Europe this year, and that 2,182 died on the way. The agency says among those mak­ing the cross­ing were175,000 Syr­i­ans trav­el­ling via Tur­key and Greece.

Ger­many has taken in most of the mi­grants. Of­fi­cials say some 450,000 new ar­rivals have reg­is­tered so far this year. About one-third came since the be­gin­ning of Au­gust — though this also in­cludes many mi- grants from Eastern Europe.

Mostafa pointed out, how­ever, that “this is a small num­ber” com­pared to the refugees re­main­ing in the Mid­dle East.

“The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity can­not ask more out of Jor­dan or Le­banon or Iraq,” said Mostafa.

He also said the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity should take ac­tion against in­creas­ingly so­phis­ti­cated smug­gler net­works ex­ploit­ing the cri­sis to reap huge prof­its.

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