Syrian refugees spark quota debate

Published October 2nd, 2013 - 08:42 GMT
Over two million refugees have fled war-torn Syria. [reformjudaism]
Over two million refugees have fled war-torn Syria. [reformjudaism]

With the number of Syrian refugees fleeing their own country passing the two million mark, neighboring countries and even those far from Syria are looking at how they may need to modify their policies to support what is now the largest humanitarian effort in the world.

The New York Times reported that at least 15 countries are looking at setting up special quotas for refugees exiting due to Syria’s war.  In a meeting in Geneva attended by the four countries that host the most Syrian refugees – Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq – discussion was under way about how to resettle the masses of people.

In last week’s UN General Assembly meeting, Lebanon’s President, Michael Suleiman, expressed a need for support as his country was being overwhelmed by refugees from Syria.  Lebanon’s Minister of Social Affairs, Wael Abu Faour, expressed his concerns about physical infrastructure within his country.

“Nothing of significance has materialized so far, not one hospital, not one school,” stated Mr. Faour. “We are more than disappointed. We are frustrated. It has been more than two years of advice, of lessons, of promises and nothing.”

Regarding access into other places, countries like the United States have made soft commitments to allow certain numbers of refugees into their countries. No firm commitments will be made until more time has been available to consult with country governmental departments on exact numbers.

While the openings in numbers are important, Antonio Guterres, the high commissioner for refugees, has stated that keeping a more long term view in supporting this transition is key.

“Everything is being put in place for effective development-related programs,” said Mr. Guterres, referencing the involvement of financial institutions like the World Bank in conversations with aid agencies and the most refugee-saturated countries. The next step will be to start requests to finance programs, Mr. Guterres said, but “I believe the right atmosphere and the right vision has been established.”

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