THE EUROPEAN UNION RESPONSE TO THE SYRIAN REFUGEE CRISIS (2011-2016)

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There are currently over sixty million displaced refugees worldwide – the highest number

ever recorded. Many of these refugees are in protracted situations, displaced from previous or on going conflicts in the Middle East and Africa. In 2011, the Arab Spring revolution, a series of antigovernment demonstrations in the Middle East, led to a violent power vacuum in the region that sparked several sectarian wars. This was particularly the case in Syria, where a civil war had broken out between the Syrian regime, various rebel factions, and extremist organizations (such as the Islamic State). The study sought to analyse the European Union’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis (2011-2016). More specifically, the study sought to establish the nature of the upsurge of refugees from Syria; assess the approaches used by European countries to deal with the refugee crisis; and to examine the consequences of the Syrian refugee crisis on the European Union countries. The study took the standard desktop design, meaning that it focused on reviewing secondary sources of data as it seeks facts, general information and the historical background to contextualize a topic and formulate an argument. The secondary sources of data such as international conventions and instruments were used as well as domestic legislation. Other sources included newspaper archives, government, university and journal articles that are used in the search for information on the topic at hand. The study found that the study deliberates that most refugee movements today are caused a variety of reasons; factors and forces. These include massive violations of human rights, especially the practice of colonialism, direct and structural violence, war, internal conflicts, external aggression, ethnic and religious strife, direct political persecution and economic and national disasters. Nevertheless, most refugee movements today are caused by conflict. Syrian refugees in the EU can obtain protection through traveling (legally or illegally) to a state and claiming asylum there, or being recognized as a refugee for resettlement selection from a country of first asylum. The EU has also responded to the crisis by resettlement and other forms of admission. However, this accounted for only two percent of the registered Syrian refugee population living in countries like Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Turkey—all of which face acute economic challenges, political instability, and significant security issues of their own. The study also established various socioeconomic and political consequences caused by the refugee crisis on the EU. First, identifying those in need of international protection and those who are not is complex. Whilst the refugee status of people fleeing Syria or other conflicts is more clear-cut, others needing international protection may not fit within the legal definition of a refugee. There are also concerns about how long refugees will remain in Europe, and thus how long they will need such support. Certainly, global trends suggest that many arrivals may have to remain for years: of the total global refugee population in 2014, more than half had been displaced for more than ten years.

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