Syrian refugee crisis increasing in severity

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Refugees continue to pour out of the country

By Davie Wong, Contributor

It’s difficult to believe that what started as peaceful protest against the government in 2011 escalated to a full-blown war. Citizens of Syria are fleeing in fear of the lives of themselves and their families. The conflicts have claimed over 220,000 lives; half of whom are civilians.

Neighbouring countries are attempting to accommodate as many refugees as possible. In Turkey alone, there are nearly two million Syrian refugees. The number of people displaced within the country is already at an estimated 7.6 million and is continuing to rise.

Leaving Syria is dangerous, as refugees often travel by night to avoid being caught by a sniper or being abducted by regime members and forced into their armies. Many stay in the country, stating that the risk of dying trying to leave is just as high as the risk of staying.

Refugees who have managed to escape the country face further challenges. Refugee camps and cities are filled to capacity, and many refugees are now being turned away from camps because there isn’t enough room to accommodate them.

Many of these refugees turn to illegal methods of immigration. In port cities along the Turkish coast, some migrants pay smugglers an average of $1300 USD per person to join up to 30 other people on a rubber raft and sail towards the Greek islands near Turkey.

Those on board the raft are left with little more than a life jacket, and are exposed to the elements at sea. Many of the boats sail early in the morning, in the hope of being spotted by a larger vessel capable of taking them to another destination. It is a dangerous journey that often ends in tragedy. Every day, more bodies wash up along the beaches, many of them children.

When asked about why he would risk the journey, Mohammed, a young Syrian refugee, said to CNN: “What can I do? I don’t want to kill. I don’t want to be killed.”

With the increased pressure on world leaders to assist in the situation, many countries have opened up their doors to allow more Syrian refugees in. Notably, the German government has promised refuge to 500,000 Syrian immigrants annually.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised in January to provide refuge to 10,000 Syrian refugees. Recently, Harper stated that Canada will not take any more refugees without proper security screening. According to CBC, when asked about the topic on September 8 during a Facebook question-and-answer session, Harper said, “We cannot open the floodgates… to thousands of refugees out of a terrorist war zone without proper process.”

Premiers across Canada are beginning to reach out and offer their province’s support. BC Premier Christy Clark became the fourth provincial leader to offer assistance, pledging $1 million to helping Syrian refugees.

Local governments have also commented on the crisis, with Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertston telling CBC that, “Vancouver has a long and proud history of welcoming refugees and their families in times of desperate need.”

The Canadian Red Cross continues to raise money to help supply refugees with food, water, and emergency medical attention. UNICEF Canada and World Vision Canada are also raising money to support Syrian children and their families.