Syria: refugee crisis becoming politicised

Syria: refugee crisis becoming politicised

Syria’s refugee crisis is escalating as western-backed insurgents attempt to overthrow the government

Scottish News: Syria – refugee crisis becoming politicised

by Christine Orr

The UN refugee agency have announced that roughly 84,000 people fled Syria in December alone, taking the total number of those displaced to around half a million.

Turkey has the largest number of refugees in its borders totalling almost 150,000 as of January. Roughly 130,000 people are in Lebanon, 120,000 in Jordan and 68,000 in Iraq.

It is expected that a comprehensive plan to address the needs of those fleeing to Lebanon will be approved by Lebanon’s cabinet. Currently the influx of refugees has depleted resources available to them.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati said, “Hence, it was pressing that the Lebanese government devise a plan to lay down a mechanism for coordination … to address the needs of Syrian refugees and Lebanese hosting families and to clearly divide the missions among relevant bodies.”

“Through its plan, the government aims at guaranteeing a fair distribution of resources, preventing the squander [of the resources] on all levels and establishing strong contact channels among all concerned groups,” Mikati said.

The Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah urged the Lebanese government to take a humanitarian approach to Syria’s displaced after the energy minister Jibran Bassil suggested sealing the borders between the two countries.

On the issue of refugees he urged, “We need a completely humanitarian approach to the displaced from Syria, without politicizing the issue. We must provide for their needs regardless of their political affiliations…We must not seal off our borders with Syria. Rather, it is our responsibility to welcome and protect the displaced.”

The UN announced last week that the estimated death toll for the civil war is as high as 60,000. A significant rise in what had been previously estimated.

UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay said, “The number of casualties is much higher than we expected and is truly shocking. Given that there has been no let-up in the conflict since the end of November, we can assume that more than 60,000 people have been killed by the beginning of 2013.”

The estimate was reached by cross referencing seven different sources over a period of five months. Previously it was guessed that roughly 40,000 have died in the conflict. Recently the pace of the killing has increased steadily day by day.

The report comes as a Syrian warplane attacked a petrol station near Damascus, killing and wounding many whilst causing a huge fire in what could be one of the bloodiest attacks in weeks.

This is seen as a fresh bid to push back opposition forces from the capital and to reclaim areas of Syria.

These moves have sparked doubts on Assad’s desire for peaceful efforts to end the conflict.

Opposition forces battled this week to seize air bases in northern Syria in an attempt to fight back against the air power that has given Assad’s forces a key advantage in the conflict so far.

The Taftanaz airbase, near the highway that links Aleppo and Damascus, was under siege this week from these forces. The bases main sections were still in Assad’s forces hands but other forces had managed to infiltrate and destroy a helicopter and fighter jet.

The government’s SANA news agency said the base had not fallen and that the military had “strongly confronted an attempt by the terrorists to attack the airport from several axes, inflicting heavy losses among them and destroying their weapons and munitions”.

However, it is hard to verify these reports as there are tight restrictions on journalism in Syria.

UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said that he had created a ceasefire plan “that could be adopted by the international community”. However the opposition have already stated that any plan must involve the removal of Assad from power.

Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halaqi told parliament on Monday that the government would “respond to any regional or international initiative that would solve the current crisis through dialogue and peaceful means.”

A member of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) an opposition military group in Syria has reported that the group has the capabilities to produce chemical weapons. Bassam al-Dada, a political advisor to the FSA, made the remarks to Turkey’s state-run news agency.

He is quoted as saying, “If we ever use them, we will only hit the regime’s bases and centers.”

So far the fear of chemical weapon usage was directed at President Assad but now this information has come to light the concern is that both sides could use the weapons indiscriminately.

With reports that a growing number of foreigners and extremists involved in the conflict the fear is also that these weapons could fall into the wrong hands.


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