Refugees, Displacement and the Politics of Migration
Assignment 1 Case Study
Migration stands to be a very common aspect of the society, wherein individuals are compelled to move from one country or place or residence to another. Human migration is influenced by a number of factors, amongst which the socio-economic and environmental conditions of an area prove to be the most significant reasons (Gray and Wise, 2016). Such migration may be of two types, namely, voluntary migration, as is the case when people move from one location to another to acquire better living conditions, and forced migration that transpires with respect to the desire to avoid war zones, trafficking or smuggling of people, or deportations of people seeking asylums. The report intends to take up the country of Syria as a case study example to demonstrate the multiple ways in which people are forced to migrate from their country of origin.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) (2017), a reported figure of 68.5 million individuals, which make for one in nearly 110 people, have been forced to leave their homes and migrate as a result of either persecution, famine, violent conflict, or natural disasters.
A significant number of such internally displaced persons (IDPs) come from the conflict-ridden country of Syria wherein the perpetual mass migrations have led to notable concerns. The Syrian refugee crisis can be identified as a humanitarian emergency that stems from the civil war in the country that broke out on March 15, 2011. This civil war started as a result of a forceful suppression of the peaceful protests carried out by students against the government of Bashar al-Assad (Reid, 2022). The civil war in Syria commenced with peaceful protests in the southern city of Daraa in March 2011, for the purpose of bringing about government reforms (Reid, 2022). Nevertheless, following the severe government crackdowns from March 15, 2011, the civil war in Syria took a violent turn, with the military being in a constant faceoff with the opposing militant groups for control over territories.
A reported figure of 13 million people have been noted to be displaced within Syria as of 2021, wherein 6.9 million individuals stand to be refugees and asylum seekers fleeing the country, with nearly 3.6 million refugees being hosted in the neighbouring country of Turkey (Reid, 2022). Furthermore, the situation in Syria also involves a number of human rights issues, some of which remain inclusive of arbitrary and unlawful killings carried out by the regime, physical and sexual torture of the people, denial of medical care (Leyh and Gispen, 2018), forced living in threatening conditions, arbitrary and prolonged detentions, unjustified interference of privacy, and restrictions on press or access to the internet, to name a few (Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, n.d.).
Accordingly, the report assesses the human rights situation in Syria, to determine the details pertaining to the nature and scope of the forced migrations from the country. It also examines the extent of asylum applications in the UK from the chosen country.
Analysis of Forced Migration in Syria
Even after almost 11 years of war, the civil war conflicts still continue and have led to the Syrian refugee crisis, or the largest refugee and displacement issue at present, that has particularly impacted the lives of the children. It has also weakened the governance of the country, in addition to destroying the social services and regressing the living standards. The regime, under the rule of Bashar al-Assad, entailed continual ground and aerial offenses from 2019 such that the areas of northwest Syria could be recaptured. Nevertheless, this resulted in the loss of thousands of civilian lives, in addition to the forced migration of nearly one million individuals prior to the cessation of the ceasefire in March (Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, n.d.). The humanitarian situation proved to be dire in view of the use of heavy weaponry for assault that led to the destruction of necessary infrastructure, akin to hospitals, schools, markets, and settlements, as a few examples.
Accordingly, the people of Syria had been forced to migrate not just owing to the fear of the civil war and violence, but also considering the lack of food and health care supplies due to the war, increasing levels of unemployment, lack of access to clean water, hazardous living environment and conditions (Akkesson and Coupland, 2018), augmented expenses associated with living in Syria, shortfalls with respect to aids and relief, obstacles concerning the renewal of legal residency, and a general absence of education opportunities (UNHCR, 2015). One of the most impacted groups of the population of Syria correlate to the children, out of the 6.9 million refugees, 2.6 million were children (Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, n.d.).
Besides losing their right to receive education and attend schools, the long-term conflicts have affected both the physical and psychological health of the children, and has led to the development of trauma in many due to the loss of family members to violence and harm. These children have also become more vulnerable to being subjected to child labour, early marriage, gender-based violence, diseases, malnutrition, trafficking, and other forms of abuse and exploitation (USA for UNHCR, 2022). Additionally, the displaced people of Syria, which includes the children as well, are forced to live in informal shelters, camps, and open fields that are overcrowded in nature, with little to no access to proper sanitation, water, hygiene, or health care (Jabbour et al., 2018). The overcrowding, accompanied by the lack of sanitary conditions, also implies the possibility of spread of communicable diseases, like cholera or typhoid (Orcutt et al., 2019).
The significant human rights issues in Syria include arbitrary and indiscriminate killings and forced disappearances by the regime, torture, harsh prison conditions, unlawful detentions, denial of provision of education and medical care (Idris, 2017), issues with the independence of the judiciary, aerial and ground attacks on civilian infrastructure, restrictions on freedom of expression and movement (Alameldeen et al., 2021), lack of fair elections, restrictions surrounding political participation, widespread corruption, forced abortions, lack of accountability and investigation into violence against women, unlawful enlistment of children as soldiers, human trafficking, discrimination and hate crimes against the LGBTQ community, criminalisation of same-sex sexual conduct, and restrictions on the rights of workers, to name a few.
Idris (2017) highlights the use of indiscriminate weapons, particularly barrel bombs as well as cluster munitions, by the Syrian government and the allied Russian troupes, against the civilians. Such attacks had been deliberately targeted against the essential civilian infrastructure, such as the medical facilities or schools, and the humanitarian personnel. Similarly, the attacks have also been conducted against civilians that have opposed to the tyranny of the regime or have tried to reform the government. Accordingly, multiple Syrian individuals have proven to be victims of illegal detainment, torture and execution by the regime.
Moreover, the armed opposition groups have attacked the civilians indiscriminately as well, besides overwhelming areas controlled by the government. In turn, such actions have resulted in the deprivation of food and medical supplies for the residents (Idris, 2017). Furthermore, suicide bombings have been carried out by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), in addition to the imposition of stringent religious laws on the controlled areas, which have been enforced through the death penalty, and corporate punishment (Idris, 2017). The ISIL has been noted to destroy significant historical and culture sites as well (Idris, 2017).
However, the violation of human rights is not limited to just Syria. In other words, it is also prevalent in the transit States that host the displaced individuals. Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq make for some of the host countries for Syrian refugees.
Nevertheless, the displaced people remain faced with similar issues in such locations. For instance, a major segment of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey do not retain access or have limited access to even the most fundamental services (Reid, 2022). In the same context, the estimated figure of 831,000 refugees of Syria, residing in Lebanon and making up 14% of the Lebanese population, are compelled to live in primitive conditions, akin to informal tent settlements, which are not regarded as official refugee camps, in view of the struggles concerning affordability of residency fees, utilities, rent, and food (Reid, 2022). Moreover, certain countries like Greece, Hungary, Macedonia, and Bulgaria. Have resorted to the construction of fences to halt the refugee flow into the countries in view of the perceived threat to national security (Baczynska and Ledwith 2016).
Extent of Asylum Applications in the UK
The 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees defines the term ‘refugee’ as a “who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.” An individual is considered to be a refugee in the UK only in the event that they receive a recognition from the government in line with meeting the definition stated in the Refugee Convention (Walsh, 2021). In other words, an individual seeking asylum in the UK would be issued with a refugee status documentation following their recognition as a refugee.
Out of all the refugees settled in the UK between the period of January 2010 and December 2020, 68% of the refugees had been from Syria with a figure corresponding to 19,964 asylum seekers (Walsh, 2021). Generally, the government of UK grants a leave of a period of five years for the refugees to retain their status, after which it is essential for them to reapply for an extended leave (Walsh, 2021). Nevertheless, the status as a refugee does not remain limited to the five years span (Walsh, 2021). Nearly 28,000 people had been reported as being resettled in the UK between 2014 and 2021, with the asylum seekers being mainly from Syria and the surrounding regions. This resettlement was accompanied by the provision of humanitarian protection for about 19% of the people since 2014 (Sturge, 2022). Per the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS), there has been the resettlement of 20,319 Syrian refugees in the UK as of February 2021 (Walsh, 2021).
A specific condition for individuals to seek asylum in the UK entails their physical presence in the country owing to the fact that it is not possible to apply for the same from elsewhere. As such, for the purpose of claiming asylum in the UK, it is necessary for the person to enter the country either in an irregular fashion, or through the application of false documents, or in view of other purposes like study or travel (Walsh, 2021). Moreover, per the Home Office, asylum applications are to be sought upon the first arrival, or through the Asylum Intake Unit in London at a later stage in case the first option cannot be adhered to.
Any asylum application in the UK corresponds to three possible outcomes. First of all, the applicant can acquire recognition as a refugee and attain a leave period of five years, following which settlement has to be applied for separately. Conversely, the applicant may attain a different form of leave, such as in the form of discretionary leave (DL), humanitarian protection (HP), leave with respect to the rules related to family or private lives, Calais leave, unaccompanied asylum-seeking child (UASC) leave, or the particular leave allowing the individual to remain (Walsh, 2021). However, a third scenario is also possible wherein the asylum claim is refused in view of the perceived threat to the country due to the applicant, or for other reasons. In such a case, the applicant holds the right to appeal against the decision provided initially.
While the asylum seekers in the UK are usually not granted the right to work, they are offered state support and the option to apply for free accommodation, and cash support set at £5.64 per day for sanitation, food and clothing (UNHCR, n.d.). The settlement process differs from the asylum process, wherein there is no application procedure, but rather selection of the refugees by the UN for resettlement. However, although housing is granted by the government, the asylum seekers do not retain the right to chose the place of residency, thus, often being compelled to live in ‘hard to let’ properties (UNHCR, n.d.). Adults, with a refugee statis or humanitarian protection, are allowed to be joined by their partner and their children aged less than 18 years in the UK. However, the same is not applicable for parents, grandparents and children older than 18 years for joining the refugee family reunion.
The Syrian refugee crisis stands to be one of the most notable issues at present with respect to the 6.8 million Syrians compelled to undergo forced migration and another 6.9 million people remaining internally displaced. The continual war conditions in the country have severely affected the political scenario, wherein corruption and tyranny of the regime prevails. Accordingly, the people of Syria are often subjected to violations of their human rights, such as in the form of arbitrary killings, unlawful detentions, forced labour, inappropriate living conditions, sexual violence, trafficking and torture, as a few examples. While a majority of Syrians opt for migration in order to avoid the dangers of the war, and the unemployment and lack of access to food, shelter and water that accompanies it, others are forced to leave the country as result of being victims of trafficking.
Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Macedonia, and Bulgaria serve as the most significant host countries for Syrian refugees, with Germany being the largest non-neighbouring transit State. Although most refugees are able to acquire proper resettlement in the host countries, some suffer from discrimination and unfair treatment in the host countries, which is again, a violation of the International Humanitarian Law. The UK is also a host country for Syrian refugees who seek asylum. The process of filing for an asylum in the UK initiates almost immediately on the arrival of the refugee in the country. The resettlement process differs from the asylum process to a certain extent. The refugees granted asylum in the UK do not retain the right to work. However, they are granted with the necessary aid from the government.
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