The refugee crisis has never been quite as prominent in our shared consciousness as it is today. The recent €3billion deal between Turkey and the EU allowing the return of refugees illegally entering Greece to Turkey however shows our continued unwillingness to face the problem. This is not a solution and the terms used by the press such as 'rounding up' and the controlled 'safe zone' for refugees on the Turkish border is all too reminiscent of an ugly past.
However this is not a new problem. The Syrian refugee crisis began years ago, the only difference now is that it has reached our borders. In Jordan the refugee community makes up between 10 to 20% of the overall population, that's around 1.4million refugees from neighbouring countries such as Syria and Iraq living in the country. To put that into context, the UK promised to take 20,000 Syrian refugees last September, the current estimate of refugees residing in the UK is 126,000 according to the British Red Cross. This sounds like a lot of people, this is until you remember that the UK is nearly three times larger than Jordan.
Let's go one step further and look at the crisis in Lebanon. There are approximately 1.2million refugees living in Lebanon, the overall population of Lebanon is about six million and the country itself is nearly three times smaller than Belgium, that's 23 times smaller than Great Britain. This is about the equivalent of the UK taking in 20 million refugees. You can argue that we're overpopulated, you can say we're doing our bit but it's just not true and it's just not enough. When I say we, I'm obviously not just talking about the UK here, no European country is matching Jordan and Lebanon's intake.
Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, both Lebanon and Jordan are being crushed by the pressure of this humanitarian crisis. Unemployment is rife, resources are scarce and funds from the West have drastically dropped since the arrival of the crisis in Europe. It's estimated that there are 4.5 million refugees from Syria alone displaced across the world, with Lebanon and Jordan taking so many there will come a point when their economies and infrastructures can no longer cope.
Why then is Western Europe so intent on turning away those in need? So much so we have promised €6 billion to Turkey from now to 2018 and visa free travel in the Schengen zone just to stop the flow of refugees into countries with relatively stable financial and political situations. Are we that desperate to keep this crisis of our shores? A recent survey amongst refugees in Jordan showed that 50% would consider making the treacherous journey to Europe if employment and living conditions didn't change. These families are so desperate they would leave another country, risking death, to find somewhere they could live and work with dignity.
There is no easy solution to this problem, this crisis. Yet one clear conclusion we can all make is that each and every EU country can and should take more refugees, and they should take them without thinking solely about the financial gains or losses their entry would cause. They should take more refugees because if we don't, if we continue to rely on Lebanon and Jordan and Turkey then soon we will have a much larger problem on our hands. A problem involving the collapse of these countries and an even bigger mass movement of vulnerable people in need.
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