Syria: a never-ending war is the source of non-stop migration
Five years have passed and still the war continues in Syria; government, opposition factions and militias are fighting each other with one idea - to eliminate the rest. This has driven half of the population of Syria to migrate within the country or to seek asylum abroad, all of them looking for the security lost in their country.
The circumstances in war-torn Syria and the search for safety
We Syrians dream of nothing more than a government which respects its citizens and a law adhered to by everyone. After years, we find militias and parties with different directions; some aspire to a religious state, others to a secular or nationalist state, and other groups dread the survival of tyranny.
Half of Syria is now outside the control of the Syrian government propped up by Iran and Russia, whilst the other half of the country is controlled by local or Islamic factions. In the north, the Kurds, represented in the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, control their region and aspire to federalism within a united Syria. However, there are those who accuse them of wanting to establish a Kurdish state and thus partition Syria. The Free Syrian Army and other Islamic factions such as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham [Conquest of Syria Front – new name for the Al-Nusra Front] and Ahrar al-Sham, supported by Turkey and other countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia, are fighting the regime and want to bring it down, but they are not strong enough. Therefore, the regime is targeting their regions indiscriminately with all the heavy weaponry it owns, causing huge numbers of civilian deaths. The Islamic State Organisation, known as ‘Daesh’, aspires to establish an Islamic caliphate using all methods, the most important of which is terrorism. So, its terrorists are not only targeting Syrians but also neighbouring states and Europe. This has forced the international community to create an alliance, led by the US and allying with the Kurds on the ground, to fight Daesh.
Not one of these factions has a national plan acceptable to the others which opens the way to a political solution. In fact they all want to impose their directions on the others by force, which is igniting neighbouring wars and kindling an interminable conflict between them. With each day that the war continues, thousands of Syrians leave their towns and villages to go to safer places, in fear of their lives and the lives of their families. The numbers show that over half of Syria’s 24 million population have become internal migrants or refugees abroad. According to the Syrian Interim Government, there are over 5 million Syrians living in neighbouring countries, some of them in tents and others in towns.
The reasons for seeking refuge in Europe
Recently, we have witnessed Syrians risking their lives to cross the seas and international borders to reach Europe; I am one of those who arrived at the start of 2015. I will try to summarise the reasons which drove me to emigrate and which may also apply to many Syrians. They are as follows:
- The continuation of the war in Syria and the lack of a political or military solution. The conviction that remaining in Syria has become difficult and that the future is unknown and governed by international agreements.
- The spread of numerous armed groups, the absence of security and the difference in ideologies between the factions, with each faction trying to expand at the expense of the others. Whenever a faction controls an area, having broken through another faction, it considers all the inhabitants to be traitors and collaborators with the previous group; consequently, either you leave, are killed, or join one of the factions to save yourself.
- The increase in the living costs and the drop in the value of the Syrian pound against the dollar. This has led to a crazy rise in prices and a shortage of basic necessities, as prices have risen by 400%. Many people have lost their jobs and it has become difficult to live in such conditions.
- The lack of political and economic stability in the neighbouring countries has led to maltreatment of refugees there. They are considered a danger to the security of their countries, threatening their citizens’ interests, and competitors in the employment market.
- There is no law protecting the rights and dignity of refugees in neighbouring countries. For example in Turkey, where I stayed for two years, only around 18% of the million Syrians receiving aid from the Turkish government and aid agencies live in Turkish camps. As for the Syrians living in towns, their plight is doubled as they try to obtain a residence permit and rent a house at their own expense, as well as finding work to support themselves. Those who work in those countries work in tough working conditions and for a much lower wage than they should earn. Most of them are exploited by their employer.
- What we see and experience of Europe’s respect for human rights, its treatment of refugees, providing a future for them and their children. With the existence of the internet and social media, people have become aware of what these countries on the other side of the sea offer in terms of services compared with living in fear and horror of the unknown.
- The reduction in the costs of migration. Previously, it cost between US$6,000 to 12,000; this has become US$2,000 or less, which is encouraging people to travel.
A moving line: Syria-Turkey-Greece-The Netherlands
When I left Syria in the middle of 2012, I believed that the end of the line would be Turkey and that I would soon return to my town and my house. However, after more than two years there, I left and went further away from my country. Before I left Turkey and whilst I was in Greece, I looked online and asked my friends about the differences between the European countries and their laws. Eventually I ended up choosing Holland when I learnt that it grants residency in a short time, that the Dutch are the most accepting of refugees, and that I would be able to continue my university studies there. When I arrived at the start of 2015, I obtained residency after four months and after a year I got a house in Rotterdam. Now I am studying the language and I really hope to complete my university studies next year.
In the end, the decision to leave one’s country is not easy. Not many people approve of migrating from place to place, but it is a fact that as Syrians, we have been forced to become victims of an ongoing war in our country. But we live in hope that one day this war will end and we will return to contribute to rebuilding what the war destroyed.