Thursday April 25, 2019
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Gulf, West grapple with Syrian refugee crisis

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By Kanika Rangray

Now-a-days on a daily basis, there comes a piece of news which reports the refugee crisis going on in the Gulf countries. Someone or the other talks about how the European Union (EU) is gradually, opening its arms towards the refugees of war torn countries like Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen. On the contrary, Gulf countries surrounding these war-torn nations refuse to help the people who have somehow been lucky enough (if that term can be used) to escape the ongoing bloodbath.

Syrian refugee camp, Campbell

The refugee crisis gained a brighter spotlight globally especially after the image of a 3-year-old drowned boy, Aylan Kurdi, lying face down on a beach went viral—triggering the anger and anguish of millions around the world. Those millions maybe a stranger to the boy, but the picture conveyed the monstrous consequences burdened upon the civilians making them refugees.

The beginning of the refugee crisis

The current refugee crisis has its roots in the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. The West, specifically the US, has a significant role to be accountable for current situation in war-torn Syria. During the early stages of the Syrian civil war, US authorities began the aid supply to various Syrian rebel groups. This happened after reports in 2013 revealed the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government to stifle rebel fighters.

Bashar al-Assad’s government denied these accusations, but the US continued to provide support to rebel groups; and many analysts prophesised that such actions will destroy the prospects of peace in Syria and prolong the war. This wreaked more havoc.

The continuous airstrikes carried out by the US, now being planned by Australia and France as well, on Islamic State of Iran & Libya (ISIL) and Islamic State of Iraq & Syria (ISIS) has brought down a catastrophe upon the devastated civilians of the victim nations. By July-end of 2015, in Syria alone the death count was an estimated 300,000. As many as 4 million Syrians were forced to leave their homeland as a consequence of the continued war. So, even though the refugee crisis cannot be altogether left on the shoulders of the West, the role it played can also not be ignored.

As a consequence, the ISIS and ISIL retaliated with terror. The war has now been going on for so long that it is now a blur of who started it first— like answering the question “Who came first? Was it the phoenix or the flame?”

Why have the Gulf countries not stepped forward?

The ongoing crisis has left approximately 12.8 million people in urgent need of humanitarian assistance in Syria, and more than 50 per cent of the country’s population is currently displaced. According to the latest data provided by Amnesty International, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain have refused any resettlement places to Syrian refugees.

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Michael Stephens, a Middle-East research fellow at Qatar’s Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, was quoted in a BBC article. He said: “Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE are extremely concerned about the potential for Assad loyalists to strike back.”

He said the Gulf states were worried about security threats from Syrian refugees, fearing that they maybe loyalists of the Assad government.

 The helping hand forwarded by the West

EU has already taken steps to assist political asylum to refugees. Gradually, the US and other Western countries are now allowing the refugees to their lands for resettlement.

Some are of the belief that the Western countries are obligated to do so. They claimed that they are the main catalysts behind all the destruction which has led to the forced relocation of millions. Is there an ulterior motive?

With providing help and refuge to not just few but to millions, it doesn’t only grab attention, it’s something more! It will also bring allies on the global political front due to the so-called humanitarian act. Such allies “earned by heart-touching actions” could provide you a strong and high pedestal on the global political arena and also a considerable amount of influence on the same front.

Maybe the Gulf countries have finally noticed this as suddenly out of nowhere funds begin to pour in huge amounts. According to New York Times (NYT), Kuwait contributed more than $US304 million to the United Nation’s Syria response fund this year, making it the world’s third-largest donor. Saudi Arabia donated $US 18.4 million and the UAE provided more than $US 540 million in relief and humanitarian assistance.

Irrespective of this global-political playground, maybe it is genuine help in reaction to the atrocities, the need of the hour is to be more productive. Instant measures are required for the well-being of these destitute and homeless people, who are nothing more than victims of those greedy for power.

Next Story

Airstrike Escalates Fighting in Libya, Authorities Close Tripoli’s Only Functioning Airport

Russia objects to the British-drafted resolution blaming Haftar for the latest flare-up in violence when his LNA advanced to the outskirts of Tripoli earlier this month, diplomats said.

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Libya
Libyan protesters attend a demonstration to demand an end to the Khalifa Haftar's offensive against Tripoli, in Martyrs' Square in central Tripoli, Libya, April 19, 2019. VOA

Explosions shook the Libyan capital Tripoli late Saturday after an airstrike, residents said, in an escalation of a two-week offensive by eastern forces on the city held by the internationally recognized government.

A Reuters reporter and several interviewed residents said they saw an aircraft circling for more than 10 minutes over the capital with a humming sound before opening fire on a southern suburb, scene of the heaviest fighting between the rival forces.

Reuters was unable to confirm whether an aircraft or unmanned drone was behind the strike, which triggered heavy anti-aircraft fire. Residents had reported drone strikes in the past days, but there has been no confirmation and explosions heard in the city center this time were louder than in previous days.

Residents counted several missile strikes, which apparently hit a military camp of forces loyal to Tripoli in the Sabaa district.

Members of the Libyan internationally recognized government forces fire during fighting with Eastern forces in Ain Zara, Tripoli, Libya, April 20, 2019.
Members of the Libyan internationally recognized government forces fire during fighting with Eastern forces in Ain Zara, Tripoli, Libya, April 20, 2019. VOA

Haftar stymied

The Libyan National Army (LNA) force loyal to commander Khalifa Haftar started an offensive two weeks ago but has been unable to breach the government’s southern defenses.

If a drone strike was confirmed, this would point to more sophisticated warfare. The LNA has so far mainly used aging Soviet-made jets from the air force of Moammar Gadhafi, toppled in 2011, lacking precision firepower and helicopters, according to residents and military sources.

Tripoli, Libya
Tripoli, Libya

​In the past the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have supported Haftar with airstrikes during campaigns to take eastern Libya. Both countries flew airstrikes on Tripoli in 2014 during a different conflict to help a Haftar-allied force, U.S. officials said at the time.

Since 2014 the UAE and Egypt have provided the LNA with military equipment such as aircraft and helicopters, helping Haftar to gain the upper hand in Libya’s eight-year conflict, past U.N. reports have established.

The UAE even built an air base in Al Khadim in eastern Libya, one such report said in 2017.

The air strikes, which were also filmed by residents in video posted online, came after a day of heavy clashes in southern districts, with shelling audible in the city center.

A Libyan fighter loyal to the Government of National Accord fires a rocket propelled grenade during clashes with forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar south of the capital Tripoli's suburb of Ain Zara, April 20, 2019.
A Libyan fighter loyal to the Government of National Accord fires a rocket propelled grenade during clashes with forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar south of the capital Tripoli’s suburb of Ain Zara, April 20, 2019. VOA

Trump’s call to Haftar

The violence spiked after the White House said on Friday that President Donald Trump spoke by with Haftar earlier in the week.

The disclosure of the call and a U.S. statement that it “recognized Field Marshal Haftar’s significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources” has boosted the commander’s supporters and enraged his opponents.

Western powers and the Gulf have been divided over a push by Haftar’s forces to seize Tripoli, undermining calls by the United Nations for a ceasefire.

Both sides claimed progress in southern Tripoli Saturday, but no more details were immediately available.

A Reuters TV cameraman visiting the southern Khalat Furgan suburb heard heavy shelling but saw no apparent change in the frontline.

On Friday, two children were killed in shelling in southern Tripoli, residents said. The fighting has killed 220 people and wounded 1,066, the World Heath organization (WHO) said.

It was unclear why the White House waited several days to announce Monday’s phone call.

UN cease-fire

On Thursday, both the United States and Russia said they could not support a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire in Libya at this time.

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Russia objects to the British-drafted resolution blaming Haftar for the latest flare-up in violence when his LNA advanced to the outskirts of Tripoli earlier this month, diplomats said.

The United States did not give a reason for its decision not to support the draft resolution, which would also call on countries with influence over the warring parties to ensure compliance and for unconditional humanitarian aid access in Libya. (IANS)