THE VIEW APRIL 2013

The problem of Syria’s refugee problem is urgent, as the heir to the British throne Prince Charles was told in a recent visit to the area, to assess the extent of the problem. Some children, we are told by usually well informed and honest international observers, have been in real danger of freezing to death in the harsh weather conditions they have been forced to endure; hunger and disease are other pressing considerations.

Yet, in fear of their lives at home, Syrian men, women and children continue to flood over their surrounding borders with Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey, where sympathies were originally immense but have been stretched almost to breaking point.

The international community has become accomplished at using its many and varied mouthpieces to express concern yet, so often, this does not translate into effective action to help solve the problem. All international attempts to help Syria’s displaced refugees have, so far, been woefully inadequate. Instead, the hot topic of conversation is whether or not certain international governments should be supplying arms to the anti-regime rebels.

To prioritise immediate action to alleviate the problems of Syrian refugees is not to adopt a head in the sand approach. Political issues with the regime in Damascus must, of course, be contained and addressed. But, in the meantime, governments placed at ‘reassuring’ distances from Syria’s borders and ‘concerned’ members of the international community, must look at the even more pressing problems of feeding and providing shelter for the ever growing needs of the displaced. The principle of filling hungry bellies may not be a guaranteed headline grabber but, in addition to fulfilling an essential and pressing humanitarian need, ‘a friend in need, is a friend indeed’, as the old adage goes. It is at times like these real allegiances are formed.

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