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Refugee crisis elicits compassion in people yet indifference from government -we need urgent G20 leadership

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 13/11/2015 Sharan Burrow

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Security, rights and freedoms are under attack. Democratic space is shrinking and millions of people engulfed in conflicts fear for their lives, driving the greatest movement of refugees seeking safe haven since the Second World War.
Global military spending stands at almost $1.8 trillion, or 2.3 per cent of global GDP. The human and economic cost of armed conflict in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere is incalculable.

The most dramatic and tragic consequence of the current state of global affairs is the scale of displacement of people due to armed conflict.
Governments in some countries are attacking their own citizens, people are taking up arms against each other in ethnic and land-based conflicts and people are fleeing from their homes due to the fear of terrorism and extremism.
While world leaders meet this weekend for the G20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey, the world faces the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War. Eighty-six per cent of internally and externally displaced persons are in developing countries, while Turkey itself has become one of the top three nations to host refugees, alongside Iran and Pakistan.
Recent events have awakened governments in Europe to the crisis but not all have yet accepted responsibility for accepting refugees fleeing war, terror and abject poverty. Countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan need more assistance. In almost all nations the compassion of people is ahead of that of their governments.
The UNHCR says nearly 60 million people were displaced from their homes by the end of 2014. Half of the displaced are children. Nearly 14 million people were newly displaced in 2014.
Turkey, Iran and Pakistan host the largest numbers of refugees. One in four refugees are hosted in developing countries which are not their country of origin. These countries need a major boost in international funding to cope with the tide of refugees needing help.

Having visited several Turkish villages now where people have opened their homes and are sharing what they can with Syrian refugees, I am humbled by the humanity of these people and horrified by those governments which are building walls, using military barriers and allowing people fleeing for their lives to drown.

The only thing we want from Europeans is their health and happiness. One woman in a camp of 20,000 refugees in Gaziantep Province told me. From God we want the war to end. We only want to go home.

In fact all around the world, the compassion of people is exceeding that of their elected leaders. In the latest ITUC Frontlines Poll into attitudes towards refugees, nearly three quarters of people from six G20 countries (63%) said their government should provide vulnerable people who have fled their own country with basic social protections and the right to work.
The ITUC has petitioned the G20 to support the right to work for all migrants and to build global funds vital for social protection.
While we congratulate countries like Germany and Sweden, it is appalling to see other wealthy countries like the UK, US and Australia talk of restrictive quotas and accepting just a few thousand. It is even worse to see other countries s turning their backs completely.
The failure to demonstrate the solidarity that values human life is abhorrent and the xenophobia distressing. And the short sighted analysis of the threat to our jobs is fear-mongering without any serious plan for the necessary infrastructure, jobs and growth to build a better future and provide opportunities for all.
Every democratic country can do better to ensure safe haven for people at risk, but so too must our leaders act to bring an end to conflict and displacement.
The international community, and in particular the permanent members of the UN Security Council, must take responsibility to help stop the armed conflict in Syria as an immediate priority. With some seven million people displaced inside the country, four million refugees outside Syria and a death toll of over 200,000 - mostly innocent civilians - the world can't stand idle a minute longer.
The Assad regime, reacting to public outrage over its torture and murder of children in Deraa four years ago, unleashed a campaign of extreme violence against peaceful opponents.
Extremist groups, backed by funding from within Gulf countries, took advantage of the regime's war on its own citizens to launch their own campaigns of terror and now large parts of the country are under the control of fundamentalist terror groups. These include Islamic State, which received financing from within Gulf States and now sustains its activities through slave-trading, smuggling and an illicit trade in oil, including selling oil to the Assad regime itself.
The people of Syria are being subjected to indiscriminate violence from both the regime and jihadist groups, including the use of chemical weapons and the notorious "barrel bombs" dropped from army helicopters on civilian areas.
In a poll carried out last month in Turkey, more than three-quarters of the Turkish population consider it important that the G20 act to stop the use of barrel bombs in Syria.
The world must stand with the people of Syria, and support moderates including the incredibly brave 'white helmets' who risk their lives daily to save the lives of others.
The major world powers, and especially the UN Security Council members, need to work together for peace and avoid the risk of a deeper and wider conflict with even worse consequences for Syrians and the wider region.
The quest for peace everywhere must again dominate global politics. G20 leaders meet this weekend, they must show that they can in fact lead.

SYRIA © Anton Chalakov via Getty Images SYRIA

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