The Strategist

New refugee and humanitarian crisis is coming to Europe

06/07/2019 - 11:19

About three million people live in territories controlled by the opposition in the Syrian province of Idlib. According to the UN, this figure includes about a million children and the same number of people who previously fled there from other regions of the country.

John via flickr
John via flickr
For several weeks now, the Russian and Syrian air forces have been bombing this province in northwestern Syria every day. “We are seeing carpet bombing in Idlib,” said Mark Lowcock in an interview with Der Spiegel.

While many Europeans are convinced that the war in Syria is almost over, Lowcock expects a worsening of the situation in this country. "The worst humanitarian catastrophe of the century could break out in Idlib," he said, comparing it with the effects of a tsunami that hit Asia in 2004, as well as the drought in Somalia in 2011. About 250 thousand people died in both cases.

There are now about three million people in Idlib who, in fact, are trapped and cannot escape from there, because Turkey has blocked its border. If the Syrian army and its allies continue to advance in Idlib, then the number of casualties could exceed the number of victims of all previous humanitarian disasters that occurred in the 21st century, Lowcock warned, and added: “The problem could not be solved by Turkey accepting more refugees. The solution to the problems would be cessation of the bombing.”

Already, the situation is terrifying. More than 300 thousand people moved to the north within the province. About 50 hospitals and other health facilities were destroyed there. Some of them closed voluntarily for fear of bombing. The UN Humanitarian Office (OCHA), headed by Lowcock, conveyed coordinates of many of these hospitals to the conflict parties. By his own admission, Lowcock is “very, very concerned” about the bombing.

According to him, only those who gave the relevant orders can tell whether the hospitals were bombed despite the fact that the UN published their coordinates, or for this very reason. Consultations are being held with hospital owners about whether it makes sense in the future to report the GPS coordinates of civilian objects to the Syrian and Russian leaders.

The regime of Bashar al-Assad is claiming that that it is fighting Islamic terrorists, primarily jihadists from the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham group. At the same time, this cannot be an excuse for carpet bombing the whole province. “There are a hundred civilians per militant,” said Lowcock.

According to him, he fears that Europe will wake up only when hundreds of thousands of new refugees rush north from Idlib. “In 2015, a million Syrians arrived in Europe. And what, according to the EU, will three million people do in Idlib? We need to solve the problem where it begins,” he added.


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