Rebuilding the Home that Refugees Deserve

As news of the recent refugee crisis floods major news outlets on a daily basis, it is easy to feel overwhelmed, heavy-hearted and perhaps even numb. ...

Sep 19, 2015

As news of the recent refugee crisis floods major news outlets on a daily basis, it is easy to feel overwhelmed, heavy-hearted and perhaps even numb. With sunken boats tallied by numbers or clashes shown in harrowing graphics of tear-gassed refugee children, the crisis at hand is like no other, and in the face of the vacuous odyssey ahead, it is easy to forget where the journey all started — home.
With xenophobic zealots like Viktor Orbán in Hungary rallying support to deny entrance, let alone basic asylum privileges, life ahead for settled refugees will continue to incur distress. The international spotlight shouldn’t just be about convincing E.U. nations to open their borders, but should also be about ways to expedite the reconstruction of the homes of millions of refugees. Namely, rebuilding Syria.
According to the E.U., since the civil war broke out in 2011, an estimated nine million refugees have fled Syria. For the many who risked traversing the vast Mediterranean sea, the reasons are simple: leave or await death. From the threat of suffocating under the illegal use of chemical weapons by President Bashar Al Assad to the frequent public beheadings by the group that calls itself the Islamic State, the streets of Aleppo and Damascus are a modern day dystopia, or to put it frankly, a looming genocide.
The problem is this: as the media spotlight shifts away from the seemingly irresolvable conflict in Syria to sensationalized news of refugee movement, the political impetus to act on Syria’s civil war gets drowned out.
Behind the curtains, Russia has been quick to move against the inaction of the U.S. Yet just last week, leaked satellite images detailing the construction of a Russian airbase in Syria’s port city of Latakia is a clear sign that Putin’s ambition of propping up the despotic Assad regime spans far beyond military aid. This is the same regime that has deployed chemical weapons and is responsible for the death of 240,000 people. With Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey supporting the Syrian opposition, it will be no surprise if such a fragile balance power breaks loose into a proxy war between foreign governments.
Claiming to be a bastion of democratic values and an international peacemaker, the U.S. has shown utter passiveness against the so-called Islamic State’s advancement as well as Russia’s encroachment. As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry tours the E.U. this week to address the refugee crisis, it simply isn’t enough to throw statements of condemnation as an answer to millions of Syrians who have watched their vibrant streets turn into battlegrounds. Years of conflicting military strategies not only reinforced Assad’s iron fist, but have cost the lives of thousands as well as displacing millions, forcing some into a traumatic gamble for their lives across Europe.
At the end of the day, as these civil conflicts continue to metastasize, the mass influx of refugees will only continue to multiply. It is at least encouraging to see Jean-Claude Juncker’s ambitious relocation plan take shape and the plain benevolence offered by citizens across Europe despite their xenophobic representatives in the media. But as the E.U. figures its footsteps and the plan rolls out, we cannot forget the pressing need to rebuild the home that millions of scattered Syrians deserve. This means a decisive and coherent intervention on part of the U.S. as well as their allies to settle for a solution that leaves Assad out of the picture.
Justin Lee is deputy opinion editor. Email him at
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