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European Countries Open Doors for Syrian Refugees

The Syrian civil war has been the cause of daily consternation for those affected by the war and the humanitarian groups looking to administer to victims’ needs. This past week saw the opening of peace talks in Switzerland as representatives from both sides of the war and nations with interests in the region looked to find some way to bring the conflict to a close.

With chances of a settlement looking grim, a number of European nations including the United Kingdom and Sweden have announced plans to bring in some of the refugees of the war. The refugee crisis resulting from the civil war has stretched the beleaguered nation’s neighbors to their limits.

The United Nations Higher Council for Refugees recently announced that the number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon had exceeded 890,000, with over two million Syrians now living abroad in total. With these staggering figures have come questions over how best to administer to the refugees’ needs, and how well the host nations could sustain this influx.

With these concerns in mind, Sweden has opened its doors to the refugees, more so than any other Western nation according to the CBC. Since 2012, the Nordic nation has taken in 14,000 refugees, far exceeding Germany, which has taken in the second-most refugees of any EU nation.

The path from Syria to Sweden is rather perilous, as refugees flee their homes with little luggage and must rely on smugglers to take them into Western Europe. In a nation they presumably know fairly little about, Syrians have gotten a warm welcome in Sweden.

One Syrian interviewed by the CBC said, “They are providing almost everything,” when questioned about their living conditions.

Sweden and Germany had taken in 64% of the Syrian refugees entering Europe from the beginning of 2012 until May 2013, according to the European Asylum Support Office. None of the other European countries in the study come close to their totals, but it looks some nations are willing to share the burden of hosting these downtrodden people.

Despite this seeming lack of interest by European nations in housing the Syrian migrants, some governments are debating opening their doors to more Syrians. William Hague, the foreign secretary of the United Kingdom, has said that his government is planning on “helping people who are particularly vulnerable,” particularly these refugees.

This represents a significant change from a government that had not committed to any refugee plan, and had up till now declined to sign for a United Nations refugee sanctuary program.

The peace talks in Switzerland and the plans that the United Kingdom has announced are being worked on represent promises being made to the Syrian people. Yet these people have been dealing with the results of the conflict for three years now, with their homes and lives being torn apart.

The lack of support for refugees beyond that done by a select few nations represents a failure on the part of the Western world. The burgeoning crisis that is engaging Syria’s neighbors is a dangerous scenario, and show the need for foreign aid that developing nations still need.

Eric Gustafsson

Sources: CBC News, DNA India, The Guardian
Photo: NPR