Story by Yashowanto Ghosh, Staff Writer
Photo Courtesy of Getty Images | Huffington Post
The Syrian refugee crisis was added to the agenda of the 70th session of the UN General Assembly on Friday, September 18. Elsewhere, Croatia sealed its border with Serbia and Hungary worked on a fence.
The ongoing civil war is what the Arab Spring brought to Syria: It began back in 2011 in the wake of the brutal crackdown by Bashar al-Assad’s government in response to a civil uprising. The fighting itself is believed to have claimed about a quarter million casualties in the last four years. Also it has set in motion a mass exodus of refugees fleeing Syria. The number of Syrians officially seeking asylum worldwide now stands at over four million. About half of them are currently camped in neighboring Turkey, which has, in the process, become the world’s largest refugee hosting country. Friday’s inclusion of the issue in the UN General Assembly’s agenda was in response to a proposal by Turkey. Other countries that share borders with Syria, such as Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq, are also playing host to large and rapidly increasing numbers of refugees.
The refugees’ condition in the camps fall far short of satisfactory—Turkey, for instance, does not grant official refugee status, but only a temporary protection status—and large numbers of the Syrian refugees try to cross into the European Union. The number of people applying for asylum in the member countries of the EU has been increasing since 2006, but it reached a 20-year high in 2014, according to Eurostat. Those numbers only include asylum seekers, who are people who relocate due to dangerous living conditions in their own countries, but do not include other migrants, who are people who relocate for other reasons, such as for work or study.
One of the main routes used by the refugees to Europe is through Serbia, crossing either north into Hungary, which is in the Schengen area of no internal border controls, or west into Croatia, which is currently working to implement the Schengen agreement. Croatia sealed its border with Serbia on Friday after over 17,000 people arrived in the previous two days. Hungary in turn completed a razor-wire fence along its own border with Serbia to stop the influx of refugees on Monday, and, on Friday, started building a second similar fence along its border with Croatia in order to prevent more people from entering there.
Meanwhile Germany, the largest economy in the EU, is welcoming refugees in spite of sporadic rioting by right-wing extremists; other member countries of the EU have announced quotas for how many refugees they can absorb.
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