Céad Míle Fáilte - A Community Response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis

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  • Cad Mle Filte

    A Community Response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis


  • Athboy Development Forum December 2016 - v1.4


    History of the conflict

    Pro-democracy protests erupted in March 2011 in the southern city of Deraa after the arrest and torture of some teenagers who painted revolutionary slogans on a school wall. After security forces opened fire on demonstrators, killing several, more took to the streets. The unrest triggered nationwide protests demanding President Assad's resignation. The government's use of force to crush the dissent merely hardened the protesters' resolve. By July 2011, hundreds of thousands were taking to the streets across the country. Opposition supporters eventually began to take up arms, first to defend themselves and later to expel security forces from their local areas. Violence escalated and the country descended into civil war as rebel brigades were formed to battle government forces for control of cities, towns and the countryside. Fighting reached the capital Damascus and second city of Aleppo in 2012. By June 2013, the UN said 90,000 people had been killed in the conflict. However, by August 2014 that figure had more than doubled to 191,000 - and continued to climb to 250,000 (50% civilians) by August 2016, according to activists and the UN. The conflict has acquired sectarian overtones, pitching the country's Sunni majority against the president's Shia Alawite sect, and drawn in neighbouring countries and world powers. The rise of the jihadist groups, including Islamic State, has added a further dimension. Almost 4 million people have fled Syria since the start of the conflict, most of them women and children. It is one of the largest refugee exoduses in recent history. Neighbouring countries have borne the brunt of the refugee crisis, with Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey struggling to accommodate the flood of new arrivals. The exodus accelerated dramatically in 2013, as conditions in Syria deteriorated. A further 7.6 million Syrians have been internally displaced within the country, bringing the total number forced to flee their homes to more than 11 million - half the country's pre-crisis population. Overall, an estimated 12.2 million are in need of humanitarian assistance inside Syria, including 5.6 million children, the UN says. In December 2014, the UN launched an appeal for $8.4bn (5.6bn) to provide help to 18 million Syrians, after only securing about half the funding it asked for in 2014. A report published by the UN in March 2015 estimated the total economic loss since the start of the conflict was $202bn and that four in every five Syrians were now living in poverty - 30% of them in abject poverty. Syria's education, health and social welfare systems are also in a state of collapse. Iran and Russia have propped up the Alawite-led government of President Assad and gradually increased their support, providing it with an edge that has helped it make significant gains against the rebels. The government has also enjoyed the support of Lebanon's Shia Islamist Hezbollah movement, whose fighters have provided important battlefield support since 2013. The Sunni-dominated opposition has, meanwhile, attracted varying degrees of support from its main backers - Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Arab states along with the US, UK and France. However, the rise of hardline Islamist rebels and the arrival of jihadists from across the world has led to a marked cooling of international and regional backing. The US is now arming a 5,000-strong force of "moderate" rebels to take the fight to IS on the ground in Syria, and its aircraft provide significant support to Kurdish militia seeking to defend three autonomous enclaves in the country's north. Source BBC News 12th March 2015

    The Syrian conflict This publication by Athboy Development Forum is in response to

    local community concerns of the developing Syrian refugee crisis and

    their willingness to enable existing community resources to assist

  • Athboy Development Forum December 2016 - v1.4


    History of the conflict contd.

    In October 2015, Russia began launching airstrikes at ISIS targets in Syria. The bombings have continued, so far killing at least 2,000 civilians and forcing even more Syrians to flee for safety. In early February 2016, fighting around Aleppo city intensified and the main route for humanitarian aid was cut off. This has severely limited access to northern Syria having been effectively sliced in half due to the fighting. Unfortunately hospitals have been targeted directly with many of them operating on basic services with medical supplies including basic antibiotics unavailable. Humanitarian and relief efforts have been severely hampered and local domestic services are restricted or now non-existent including running water, sanitation and power. Recent joint proposals between Russia and Syria's to set up so-called "humanitarian corridors" out of eastern Aleppo are considered deeply flawed on humanitarian grounds and are hampered by groups such as the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) allegedly using brutal siege tactics and illegal attacks on civilians. Residents in Aleppo are forced to flee or stay decision without UN support on the ground to monitor the situation and give the citizens a choice. It is important to remember the residents are families with children, often fleeing at night to avoid snipers or to avoid young males from being kidnapped for recruiting to fight for the regime. More than 50% of Syrian refugees are children who have lost everything.

    Hundreds of thousands of refugees are also attempting the dangerous trip across the Mediterranean Sea from Turkey to Greece, hoping to find a better future in Europe. Not all of them make it across alive. Those who do make it to Greece still face steep challenges resources are strained by the influx, services are minimal and much of the route into Western Europe has been closed. There are now 4.7 million Syrians scattered throughout the region, making them the world's largest refugee population under the United Nations' mandate. It's the worst exodus since the Rwandan genocide 20 years ago. According to the U.N., it will take $7.7 billion to meet the urgent needs of the most vulnerable Syrians in 2016. That equates to approximately $8k per refugee / displaced person, not including persons that remain in war-torn areas.

  • Athboy Development Forum December 2016 - v1.4


    Irish Government Response Orientation Programme for Syrian Refugees in Ireland

    The Hazel Hotel in Co. Kildare and the Clonea

    Strand Hotel in Waterford were selected and are

    being used for the temporary accommodation of

    refugees displaced by the Syrian conflict.

    Commencing in August 2015, initially 76 refugees

    in 16 families displaced by the Syrian conflict

    arrived from Lebanon. They were

    accommodated in Kildare whilst undergoing

    language training, orientation, medical

    treatment and the children were prepared to

    enter the education system. A revolving door

    system was planned with new refugees arriving

    as those who have been oriented are dispersed

    across the country.

    520 programme refugees were committed to

    by Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald in May

    2015, separate to the 600 displaced people she

    committed to accepting in July 2015. This figure

    was expected to be reviewed and rise

    significantly following a meeting of EU justice

    and home affairs ministers in Brussels on 14th

    September 2015.

    On 4th September 2015 the Minister outlined that

    the likely figure for Syrian refugees entering the

    orientation programme would be in excess of

    1,800 refugees. The Minister added that she had

    received approval from the Taoiseach for

    flexibility on Irelands response to the measures

    during the meeting on the 14th September in

    order to take decisions on the day if necessary.

    She said that the Irish Government was open to

    working with Europe and has since agreed to

    accept 4,000 refugees. However a slower than

    anticipated arrival of asylum seekers from Greece

    and Italy was a result of administrative issues in

    those countries.

    Of the 4,000 people committed to under the

    September 2015 Government decision establishing

    the Irish Refugee Protection Programme, 2,622 are

    to be taken in under the EU relocation scheme

    from Italy and Greece and 780 from Lebanon (520

    of whom will arrive in 2016 and 260 in 2017) under

    the refugee resettlement programme. A decision

    has yet to be taken on the mechanism under which

    the residual will be taken. Ireland is not at present

    participating in the EU Turkey 1:1 programme as it

    has no unused quota from the Council Conclusions

    of 20 July 2015 on resettlement that could be used

    to pledge under the first tranche of the

    programme. Participation in the second tranche of

    the EU Turkey 1:1 scheme will require the exercise

    of an opt in.

    The Irish refugee resettlement programme has

    been in operation since 2000. 1,400 vulnerable

    persons from 30 different countries, including Iraq

    and Syria, have been resettled in Ireland to date.

    Refugees have been resettled in 29 different

    communities throughout Ireland and in all four

    Dublin local authorities. 520 Syrian refugees are

    expected to be resettled in Ireland by December

    31st 2017. Despite this there is little evidence of

    engagement with rural community leaders with

    measures to assist the refugees to integrate into

    communities and report back on the effectiveness

    of any measures introduced.

  • Athboy Development Forum December 2016 - v1.4


    Irish Government Response - Contd.

    Cross-Departmental Taskforce.

    A Cross Departmental Taskforce chaired by the

    Department of Justice and Equality, to deal with

    the operational and logistical aspects of the

    support programme has been established. The

    Taskforce adopted a whole of Government

    approach. Its membership comprises all the main

    Government Departments and State agencies as

    well as the UNHCR and the Red Cross.

    International Support

    Ireland has also provided support with continued

    Navy search and rescue missions. On 12th May

    2015, Defence Minister Simon Coveney

    requested and received approval from the

    Cabinet for a two-month tour of duty for the

    naval vessel The L Eithne, on a mission to

    prevent migrants from drowning in the

    Mediterranean. It was the first time in the Navys

    history that it has been involved in such an

    overseas operation.

    Mr. Coveney said the Navy hopes to prevent a

    human catastrophe, similar to the coffin ships

    which left Irelands shores in the 1800s, and stem

    the migrants crisis in the Mediterranean which

    has already led to the drowning in recent weeks

    (April/May 2015) of 1,750 people.

    The ships role is to save migrants, transport

    them to Italian vessels or ports where they will be

    temporarily housed before being given the

    option of seeking asylum in the EU. During the

    initial Mediterranean deployment in difficult and

    demanding conditions, the LE Eithne rescued a

    total of more than 3,400 migrants including

    almost 170 children off the North African coast. A

    2nd tour of duty was underway until November

    2015. Source www.irishtimes.com

    Separately, Italy has rescued about 250,000

    migrants at sea in the past three years, with 20,000

    in 2016 alone, with some 3,000 in one week.

    Meanwhile Irish Naval vessels continued to support

    rescue efforts throughout 2016 and to date had

    rescued approximately 15,000 migrants from

    unseaworthy crafts. Source www.military.ie

    Still, smugglers profiteer from the refugees plight

    often using brutal tactics on overcrowded barges

    and various inflatable craft. Facilitating this

    service has only served to increase the volumes

    of crossings by economic migrants and or refugees

    from neighbouring North African countries such as

    Sudan, Niger, Nigeria and Eritrea. Judging by the

    volumes the risk of staying in their home countries

    far outweighs the risks in hazardous water

    crossings. It would appear that the smugglers now

    capitalise on the international rescue fleets and

    often dont load enough fuel on boats expecting

    them to be rescued at sea. This has contributed to

    5,000 drownings in 2016, 12,000 since 2014.

    Additionally there has been a shortage of boats

    reported as most boats take a one way journey and

    those rescued are scuttled thereafter.


  • Athboy Development Forum December 2016 - v1.4


    In his State of the EU address to the European Parliament in

    Strasbourg on 9th September 2015, Mr. Juncker called for

    solidarity from the EUs 28 member states in responding to the

    influx of refugees from Syria and Libya, telling MEPs: It is not

    time to take fright; it is time for humanity and human dignity.

    Mr. Juncker indicated that he wants all EU states to take part in

    the new programme, saying: I really hope that this time

    everyone will be on board. There is a reason the number of

    ONeills and Murphys living in the US exceeds the number in

    Ireland, he added.

    Mr. Juncker said that Europe was sought worldwide as a place

    of refuge, and was seen by those fleeing Islamic State in the

    Middle East as a place of hope, a haven of stability." This is

    something to be proud of, and not something to fear, he said.

    He warned that as long as there is war in Syria and terror in

    Libya, the refugee crisis will not simply go away.

    We can build walls and fences, said Mr. Juncker. But imagine

    for a second if it were you, your children in your arms, the world

    you know torn apart around you. There is no price you would not

    pay, no wall you would not climb, no sea you would not go to sea

    in, no border you would not cross.

    Mr. Juncker urged EU member states to adopt the Commissions

    proposal to increase the relocation scheme from 40,000 to

    160,000 migrants currently in Italy, Greece and Hungary at a

    summit of interior ministers later in September 2015.

    There is a lack of Europe in this

    union, and a lack of union in

    this union. - Jean-Claude Juncker 9th September 2015

    European Response Refugee Quota Plan

  • Athboy Development Forum December 2016 - v1.4


    Community Response Ced Mle Filte - Enabling Communities Athboy Development Forum is a voluntary community group managed by a dedicated committee of local persons. It has been working for approximately 20 years for the community in Athboy, increasing opportunities for positive social interaction, assisting with the stimulation, planning and evaluation of development ideas, including their business plans and funding proposals for those projects identified as important towards growth within the community. In September 2015, the committee in response to growing commun...


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