Syria, the recent Brussels attacks and PM Turnbull’s criticism of EU security
The conflict in Syria is complex, complicated and multi-faceted. The ideal solution is an end to the Civil War, a stable Government for Syria and a return of displaced persons to what’s left of their homes.
This ideal solution, however, seems a long way off.
The complexity of the situation in Syria has been further complicated by the rise of Islamic State extremism and the increase in terror attacks across the globe, including on European soil.
While the majority of the perpetrators of attacks in Europe have been reportedly committed by European nationals, some attackers have been documented as passing through European borders, presenting as Syrian refugees, and therefore using the Syrian conflict as a means of inflicting the motives of extremists.
Comments by Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull criticising the European Union response to the millions of refugees seeking asylum within its borders and linking the recent Brussels attack with the Syrian refugee problem are unhelpful.
These comments further reiterate the delicate nature of the situation and the lack of an international consensus to adequately deal with the plethora of problems emanating from the war torn region.
It has been reported that some of the attackers in the Paris and Brussels attacks passed through the Greek island of Leros, posing as refugees seeking asylum.
Greece, enduring its own economic and social crisis, has been on the front line of the Syrian refugee crisis, with 1 million refugees arriving on its islands in 2015.
Had Greek authorities been adequately resourced by the EU to screen all refugees, the attackers may have been prevented from continuing their journey towards France and Belgium.
The issues facing the Greek authorities are a small example of the plethora of issues that have arisen from the Syrian Civil War.
Greece and Turkey have since revisited an agreement to return refugees arriving in Greece in exchange for funding and concessions from the EU to Turkey.
Mr Turnbull may arguably resemble use of the refugee crisis as political pointscoring by comparing the EU’s porous borders with that of internationally condemned local policies here in Australia.
This rhetoric does not assist the millions of people on the ground in Syria and Europe affected by this crisis, but merely increases anti-refugee sentiment within our own borders and across a European continent already struggling to grapple with the humanitarian cost of the Syrian conflict.
How could the Australian Prime Minister act differently?
In light of the humanitarian crisis in Syria and Europe, Mr Turnbull would have been better advised to speak compassionately about the need for a regional and global solution to the refugee crisis, in particular, and Syrian Civil War in general.
It is interesting to note that both the Belgian ambassador to Australia, Jean-Luc Bodson, and the German ambassador to Australia cautioned against drawing the conclusions Mr Turnbull did between the recent Brussels attacks and the Syrian refugee crisis
Furthermore, the leader of a wealthy country built on immigration should be taking a stance on a global level to do more to assist the millions of displaced Syrian citizens and to help resolve the crisis.
Mr Turnbull should increase Australia’s intake of Syrian refugees from a paltry 12,000 to a number more reflective of a nation with our capacity to welcome new citizens (noting the large numbers of permanent migrants taken each year is often in excess of 180,000).
Mr Turnbull should actively use our position as a leader in the Asia Pacific and take advantage of our historically strong ties with both Europe and the US, to advocate for a multi party solution to the conflict.
Mr Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop could also advocate for a variety of outcomes, including but not limited to:
- Calling on greater UN involvement in both peacekeeping operations, ceasefire negotiations and humanitarian aid;
- Pursuing multi-party avenues such as advocating for the establishment of talks between Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers Party to overcome certain differences to allow Kurdish Pashmerga forces uninhibited opportunity to defeat ISIS;
- Increasing foreign aid to Syria’s neighbours (such as Lebanon and Jordan), as refugee camps in these countries are under-resourced and are leading to Syrians taking the drastic and dangerous journey towards Europe
- Encouraging those on the UN Security Council, including primarily Russia and the United States, to negotiate a solution without a strong focus on their respective interests in the region
- Advocating for a binding ceasefire and resolution to the Civil War
A more compassionate approach to the treatment of refugees, both in Australia and overseas, should be the goal of local, regional, national and international policies.
Locally, your continued support for AFFMA, greatly assists us to provide a professional volunteer service for refugees and asylum seekers navigating the complex Australian legal system.
B.Com, B. Laws (Hons), Dipl. Legal Practice