An alternative future for Middle Eastern refugees

A guest post by AKUS

Washington Post, August 26, 2012: Sharp increase in refugee flows from Syria

The closure [of the Turkish border] left more than 7,000 refugees stranded in olive groves just inside Syria at the two places where most of the Syrians cross, while Turkish officials look for a way to accommodate them at camps that can’t keep pace with the influx. … But with more than 80,000 refugees in Turkey, nearly double the number a month ago, officials warned that the country is rapidly approaching the point at which it will no longer be able to cope … The number of refugees being accommodated by Syria’s neighbors has already outstripped the United Nations’ projection of 185,000 by the end of the year, with more than 200,000 registered in Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon as of Friday. The number in Turkey has climbed by 10,000 since Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, warned a week ago that Turkey would press for international action if the figure passed 100,000. The latest arrivals suggest that threshold could be reached within weeks, if not days.

Washington Cyberpost, August 26, 2072: UNSCOSR Budget must increase to serve needs of Syrian refugees

The UN Special Commission on Syrian Refugees, UNSCOSR, issued a warning that its budget was no longer sufficient to feed, clothe and house the Syrian refugees living in Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon.  Commissioner George Galloway Jr. stated in June:

Since the UN agreed in 2015 to follow UNRWA protocol and to award perpetual refugee status to those who fled Syria in the upheavals of 2012, and to their descendents, the number of refugees which was estimated at approximately 350,000 by mid-2013 when Iran took control of Syria now numbers approximately 3.5 million. All efforts during the last six decades to persuade the Sunni-led government, which, with Iranian support has controlled Syria since that time, to allow refugees to return to their homes have failed. The Syrian government says it cannot afford to take back a group of people who left the country 60 years ago. Our efforts to reach accommodation on budget sharing with UNRWA, which is responsible for the feeding, clothing, and housing of approximately 25 million Palestinian refugees have not yielded any results.

UNSCORS’ Year 2072 budget of $35 billion dollars is stretched to the limit, UNSCOSR claims. Its need for 2073 is for $42 billion, based on a budget of $12,000 per refugee for clothes and special programs similar to those managed by UNRWA for the last 124 years.

UNRWA has an estimated budget of approximately $400 billion dollars, compared to its 2011 budget (the last time budget numbers were published) of $1.2 billion. This is due to natural increase from 7 million people to 35 million still considered refugees despite attempts at encouraging birth control, and inflation that averaged 4% during the last 60 years. Inflation has necessitated the payment to Palestinians per capita from about $1,000 annually to $12,000 per capita. It represents approximately 35% of the total UN budget.

This year rioting in the streets of Oslo and Stockholm forced the governments  of Norway and Sweden to rescind the laws instituted in 2025 following a referendum that made it compulsory to provide funding, without limitation, to UNRWA after the USA, UK, Germany and France decided that they would only provide funding to refugees who had actually left homes in 1948 Palestine and not to their descendents.  By 2035, the last refugee meeting that definition had passed away, and no funds have been received since from those countries. Thus UNRWA is also finding funding inadequate. Some estimates for UNRWA’s budget requirements run as high as $1 trillion ten years from now, squeezing out aid to all other UN relief agencies as it passes the 50% mark for all UN activities.

While this Scandinavian refusal to continue funding UNRWA might have been assumed to free up funds for Syrian refugees, the same demand has been made to reduce funding to the Syrian refugees so no additional funding has become available from that source.

Arab states that initially supported the Syrian refugees have stated that they can no longer afford to do so. Their oil reserves have greatly diminished, reducing their ability to support their growing and largely unemployed populations.  The use of alternative energy sources in the developed countries of North America, Europe, and the Far East coupled with the enormous reserves of shale oil and natural gas discovered in North America, Siberia and China have drastically reduced demand and therefore prices and thus their ability to provide much-needed aid to Syrian refugees.

In addition, China has preferred to provide funding to the African countries, where starvation and warfare continue to make it difficult to tap the immense natural resources of the continent. These resources are necessary for China’s huge nano-electronic business  and the special materials used in building asteroid mining spaceships critical to China’s high-tech economy. All efforts to encourage the Chinese to broaden their assistance to Syrian refugees have been met with refusal.

One bright spot is that Jordan’s success in developing its agricultural sector with Israeli assistance has somewhat reduced the risk of the kind of starvation for refugees in its territory that can be seen in Africa. In addition, Israel no longer has to send supplies to Gaza since Egypt’s UN-brokered annexation of that territory in 2017 and the disbanding of Hamas. It has allocated that portion of its budget to shipping food to refugees in Lebanon and Jordan. Turkey has yet to follow suit, claiming that the Egyptian annexation of Gaza was an illegal deal between Israel and Egypt that has no standing under international law.

However, Israel, while recognizing that it has a regional interest in settling the Syrian refugee problem, maintains that the cost of feeding its largely unemployed religious community without UN assistance has become prohibitive. The Israelis have not agreed to continue to contribute additional funds  to UNRWA or UNSCOSR (except for shipping food and medical supplies as stated) as they did for a few years in exchange for the Egyptian annexation of Gaza given the reduction in defense spending that followed the annexation. Turkey has prevented various aid shipments and flotillas from European countries from passing through its territory. It has tied any progress on that front to acceptance as a member of the EU.

Those who fled Syria and their descendents now live as stateless citizens in dismal camps along Syria’s borders.  Competition for work with Palestinian refugees which started even as early as 2012 for waste disposal positions, traditionally given to those living in the camps, has led to tensions and factional fighting between the two groups. Decades of enforced idleness, lack of opportunity and education, continuing denial of women’s rights, and a high birth rate have only exacerbated the challenges facing these unfortunate people despite UNSCOSR’s best efforts.

Given the similarity of the challenges facing the two refugee groups, and the identical regulatory framework in which UNSCOSR and UNRWA operate that demands that all descendents of the original refugees continue to be maintained as refugees, UNSCOSR has requested a special session of the General Assembly be convened to discuss how to meet the pending budgetary, and therefore humanitarian, crisis among those it has been looking after for the last six decades. If no additional funding is available, it proposes that the UN combine the budgets of UNSCOSR and UNRWA and share the total based on an equal per capita allocation.

This proposal has been vigorously opposed by the leadership of the Palestinian Authority from its headquarters in Lichtenstein and by members of the Palestinian Solidarity Councils in Britain, the US, and South Africa. A spokeswoman for the Fatah Resistance faction of the PA wrote in an op-ed in the New York Guardian (formed through the simultaneous bankruptcy of the NYT and the Guardian UK, then purchased in 2014 by the PA to act as its media arm using funds provided by UNRWA as part of its support for Palestinian cultural activities) that until the Palestinian refugees are returned to their homes in Palestine not a cent will be taken from UNRWA’s budget. The PA insists that the budget for its refugees in the Middle East will continue to be administered from its Budget Office in Lichtenstein.

Commissioner Galloway Jr. of UNSCOSR stated:

 “We at UNSCOSR, however, believe the same logic applies to our refugees, and will continue to propose equitable allocation of funds for Arab refugees in the Middle East”.

Israel has objected to the use of the term “Arab refugees”, claiming that Jewish refugees from Arab countries should also be included in this allocation of funds. The special session is expected to take place at Durban 33, to be held in Tehran next year, where a motion has been put forward condemning Israel for not intervening in Syria in 2012. The USA has announced it will not attend, an action condemned by the EU and Zimbabwe.

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