Strasbourg, 20/12/13 – “One of the world's biggest refugee crises of recent times is unfolding on Europe's doorstep, but most European governments have reacted with complete indifference. Close to 4 million people are internally displaced in Syria and almost 3 million have left the country since the beginning of the conflict. The vast majority of the refugees benefit from the hospitality of Syria's neighouring countries, including Turkey, which have taken the brunt of this humanitarian crisis. As for the rest of Europe, the response has so far been limited to providing humanitarian assistance to some of these countries. However, when it comes to actually receiving refugees, Europe has been much less generous and often negligent in abiding by its human right obligations”, says Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, in his latest Human Rights Comment published today.
I could personally witness the extent of this crisis and the multiple challenges it represents for Europe during this last week, which I've spent visiting Syrian refugee camps and centres in Turkey, Bulgaria and Germany. More than half of the refugees fleeing Syria are children, the majority of them younger than 12. Several thousand of them are unaccompanied or separated, while many are not registered and remain at risk of statelessness. It is estimated that at least half of the more than 1 million refugee children of school age in the neighbouring countries do not currently enjoy their right to education. Although many are eager to study, the lack of resources prevents them from starting or going back to school. (Continue reading)