About the Greece Refugee Crisis
Where are refugees from?
Refugees in Europe predominantly come from Syria, but a significant number have also fled from conflict-ridden countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq.
Syria’s civil war began in March 2011 when pro-democracy groups protested the arrest and alleged torture of a group of children who scrawled anti-Assad graffiti at school. The government used violence against the protestors, killing many, which incited widespread dissent. Over time, rebel groups strengthened their resolve as the regime continued to exert deadly force against dissidents. Within a couple of years, Islamic extremists from neighboring countries arrived from neighboring countries to seize the opportunity to establish a stronghold in Syria. Foreign powers, including the US, launched attacks on ISIS, but have not engaged in combat with the regime or rebel groups. Russia, Iran, and the militant group Hezbollah are backing the Syrian government. It has become a complex battleground for outside interests, with devastating consequences. Peace talks have been unsuccessful as civilian casualties climb.
How many people have been killed or displaced?
As of February 2016, the death toll has been reported to be as high as a staggering 470,000. Nearly 11.5 percent of Syria’s population has been killed or injured. 13.5 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian assistance. There are just under 5 million registered refugees.
What other factors contribute to current trauma?
Injury: Approximately 1.5 million people have been wounded or permanently disabled.
Torture: Civilians dealing with the effects of torture suffer depression, PTSD, panic attacks, chronic somatic symptoms, and suicidal behavior.
Domestic Violence: Domestic violence has increased and become more aggressive and common. This has primarily been attributed to the additional stress on men of not being able to protect or provide for their families.
Sexual Violence: Many women and girls, and to a lesser extent men and boys, are exposed to sexual and gender based violence due to conflict-related violence, the breakdown in law and order, lack of basic needs and services, family separation and disruption of traditional social networks and protections. Victims of sexual violence may be ostracized from their communities or divorced from their spouses. Women arrested or kidnapped are stigmatized on the presumption they have been sexually abused. Incidents of sexual violence are reported to a lesser extent in host countries, but refugees remain vulnerable.
Early Marriage: Incidents and effects of early marriage have increased as a coping mechanism, perceived as a means to protect girls and secure their future. However, it is a significant source of distress for girls and is associated with interrupted education, health risks, and increased risks of domestic violence.
LGBT Discrimination: Same-sex acts are illegal in Syria and overt discrimination is prevalent. The conflict has increased the risks of exploitation and abuse to LGBT persons, creating high levels of stress and very specific psychosocial and social difficulties.
People with Special Needs & the Elderly: Older refugees and those with disabilities, injuries, or chronic diseases are at substantially higher risk of physical and psychological distress, particularly due to high levels of social isolation and the loss of supportive social and physical environments.
Children: More than HALF of all refugees and internally displaced persons are children. Two-thirds of these children are under the age of twelve. Children have endured the destruction of their homes and communities, forced displacement, family separations, and recurrent violence. In Syria, children face exposure to physical and sexual violence, recruitment by armed groups for support functions and combat, and lack of access to basic services. When children arrive in host countries, they suffer the separation of friends, families, and neighbors. They remain vulnerable to violence and face discrimination and bullying.
It's not Just Syria
Alongside the Syrians and Iraqis fleeing violence at home, many Afghans are also giving up on their country. The civil war with the Taliban continues even as the last US and Nato troops have left.
Afghans make up the third biggest group of those arriving in Europe after Syrians and Iraqis. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that almost 80,000 Afghans applied for asylum in Europe in the first six months of 2015, compared with about 24,000 during the same period last year.
In Afghanistan, Taliban attacks have multiplied, the government is failing and the country is in the middle of an economic downturn.
Among those trying to leave are educated, middle-class young Afghans who grew up after 9/11 and had good jobs while the US and Nato were in the country. Now the majority have lost their jobs, they see no hope of an economic revival and so they are leaving.
A large portion of refugees are also coming from Pakistan, where there are still 1.5m registered and 1m unregistered Afghan refugees — a leftover population from the Afghan wars of the 1980s and 1990s. Pakistan is now refusing to continue to host these refugees and is in the process of forcing them back into Afghanistan. This is prompting many stranded families to leave Pakistan and take the perilous bus ride through Iran and Turkey to avoid being sent back to Afghanistan, where they see no hope or future.
Another group desperately seeking safety in Europe are the Hazaras targeted by the Taliban and al-Qaeda for being Shia. Some Hazara Shia refugees in Iran are being recruited to fight for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and that makes them even more of a target for Sunni extremists in Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.
The Afghan refugee crisis is the result of more than three decades of wars, invasions, Islamic extremism and multiple dislocations of populations. Afghan refugee populations also face higher level of scrutiny compared to Syrians. In fact, many of the dislocated have no place to go in Afghanistan and face significant violence and physical danger by doing so.