Refugees pushed toward Europe by overstretched Mideast resources
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.