Essay: Adversities of Syria

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‘Syria has become the great tragedy of this century.’ ‘ Antonio Guterres

Adversities of Syria are not hidden from the world. In March 2011, the cataclysm day for Syria when it acknowledged the brawl of Syrian civil war since then it has been the controversial misery of Syrians who are swapping away from their hometowns to take safer refuge for them and their fellow beings. United Nations High Commissioner also trailed stats that of about 9 million people who needs fast track help. Out of which more than 3 million Syrians went out to their neighbors like Iraq, Turkey, Jorden and Lebanon; Europe was home form 1,50,000 and 6.5 million lost their native homes for safe internal displaced refuge.

Legion number of countries and international organizations came up for help and burden sharing but no big result of comfort and console has been drastically acknowledged which can fade out blight of Syrian people and their situation. Germany of European Union accepted almost 85% of the Syrians population. But as we examine Countries who are rich in Muslim population like Saudi Arabia & U.A.E; shows no single sign of admission of Syrian people. Nothing can be more astonishing than the fact about behavior of these Muslim nations despite of being refugee more than 50% among refugee people.

This research will make an endeavor to determine the status and rights of these Syrian refugees on the basis of related laws, policies, conventions etc. Crucial analysis shall be made at different levels; regional, domestic and international. This research study is bridle for Syrian Refugee Crisis; The researcher will promptly examine and analyze the global retort especially from the Middle east countries, European countries and India.

The dissertation, contained of one-year research and fieldwork; frames out a groundwork and cage for states who resides in and out of the Middle East region and that can troll up burden-sharing responsibilities of the refugee people and can abide by them through present laws and policies; it will drastically integrate Syrian and no-Syrian refugees by short and long term acceptance into nations. The dissertation talks about and alarms for burden-sharing through Comprehensive Plan of Action which can established on chief requirement in cooperation and accordance with the states and activists that can actively play up roles and are a part of UN and civil society.

The dissertation begins with the call for a Comprehensive Plan of Action for the Syria crisis, setting out a series of recommendations directed towards a range of actors: the host states; the Middle East region; the EU; the US and the Americas; the key UN agencies; and the rest of the international community. A solution-oriented Comprehensive Plan of Action would incorporate temporary protection programs in at least three regions to absorb refugees fleeing Syria (Syrian nationals and Palestinians) on a short-term basis; expanded resettlement programs prioritizing pre-existing non-Syrian refugees from the Middle East; and expanded emergency programs, such as humanitarian, special visas and family unity visas already in place to prioritize displaced persons from Syria.

The dissertation maps the interplay of laws and policies at the domestic and regional levels in four of the five countries receiving the bulk of Syrian refugees i.e, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey etc. after setting out the legal framework for a global Comprehensive Plan of Action. The key protection gaps between existing legal obligations and implementation on the ground are addressed by the dissertation. The dissertation makes recommendations for how the host states can address the gaps in protection. The findings are then linked to international obligations of responsibility sharing by the dissertation and the key mechanisms that require states outside the region to offer asylum and humanitarian status to the refugees in their territories . The dissertation clearly shows that how a Comprehensive Plan of Action incorporating such recommendations allows the international community to use existing legal frameworks to both lift the unsustainable burden currently held by a few host states towards this huge refugee population, and to close the protection gaps for the refugees remaining in the region. To make a conclusion on dissertation, it shows how only a global Comprehensive Plan of Action with the components of existing legal frameworks can prevent the Syrian conflict- and widening Iraq conflict– from spreading and becoming a protracted refugee crisis that could last a decade or more.
The components of the Comprehensive Plan of Action are summarized below with a brief background, and the recommendations set out before discussion of each of the Middle East host country’s laws, policies and existing protection gaps affecting the refugees fleeing from Syria.
The rationale upon which international refugee law rests is not simply the need to give shelter to those persecuted by the state, but……to provide refuge to those whose home state cannot or does not afford them protection from persecution.
A person whose life is under constant threat or the living conditions are not conductive for his healthy survival and he runs for shelter to another nation is termed to be a Refugee. He still possesses a de jure national status and thus, he should be treated differently to a stateless person. However, the exact definition is, any person who ‘owing to well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or unwilling to avail protection of that country”
The person’s state of mind which is supported by objective elements determines the refugee status of a person. There are certain unfilled gaps in this definition as it does not include the contemporary problems related to refugee protection. The definition fails to include people seeking refuge due to environmental disasters, people displaced internally due to hostility, internal disturbances and civil wars or people having different sexual orientations.
Due to its geographic location, democratic government, religious tolerant society and goodwill, India continues and will continue to be the host country since time immemorial for a large number of refugees not only from neighboring countries but also from other parts of the world as well.
India though is not a signatory of the 1951 Refugee convention but it has ratified a number of other human rights treaties which imposes obligation to provide protection to refugees. Some of the enlisted conventions are International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR Art. 13), UN Declaration on Territorial Asylum 1967, Convention on the elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Universal Declaration of Human Right 1948 (Art. 14), International Convention on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and Convention against Torture and Cruel Inhuman or degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). No treaty, convention or law can be compartmentalized and excluded to respect the human rights of refugees. These treaties impose a positive duty on India to provide protection to refugees as long as they fear persecution at the hands of their governments.
The Convention, at length, elaborates the definition of the Refugees and very specifically categories under Article 1(A) (2) that refugee must have a fear of discrimination or harassment. Since the Law is an evolving subject area and majority of actions, be it like ‘ remedies available and liabilities imposed, are based upon the interpretation of the relevant term /Clause of a Treaty or Section of a Statute. In the present subject matter, the term used in the definition of the Refugee, includes the observable fact – ‘well-found fear of being persecuted…’ is of prime importance as determination of the status of Refugee is based upon it. Before moving further, it is necessary to understand, at glance, the observations made by the Court while interpreting the said term. Federal Court of the Canada have observed in the case of Joseph Adjei v. Minister of Employment and Immigration that ‘We would adopt that they will adopt the ratio decided by the Court in the case of Pratte J.A. in Seifu v. Immigration Appeal Board (A-277-822, dated January 12, 1983) that a person seeking refugee need not necessarily have suffered persecution in the past but it is only sufficient to merely demonstrate that he has a sense that he/she might be harassed. The Supreme Court of the United States during a hearing of same kind of the Case has observed that the term used in the Article 1 of the Convention that merely fear of the harassment of persecution is sufficient to establish to the fear.
‘For a person to fall within the definition of a refugee, a person must satisfy two cumulative conditions: one, he must be outside his country of residence owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted on specific grounds; two, he must be unable to return to that country, or owing to such fear be unwilling to return to it”. House of Lords while interpreting the Article 1(A) (2) has particularly examined that a person seeking asylum of refugee is required to illustrate that he has genuine fear of persecution. Handbook for determining the status of Refugees spells that acknowledgment as a Refugee is necessary in a way that it declares him/her as a Refugee.
As mentioned above, the 1951 Convention deals with the rock solid definition of the Refugee and further deals with important rather I would say fundamental aspects dealing with the asylum seekers like – duty of the Refugee towards the Country to maintain the public order on one hand and on the other talks about the rights he/she is entitled to like ‘ nondiscrimination against race, religion or origin of the Country freedom to participate their religion and education thereof under Article 4 of the Convention. It further provides for national treatment same as its citizen under Article 7 . It also talks about the Juridical Status of the Refugees under Article 12 regarding domicile, Article 13 regarding rights related to movable and immovable property and Article 15 provides for Right of Association as ‘As regards non-political and non-profit-making associations and trade unions the Contracting States shall accord to refugees lawfully staying in their territory the most favorable treatment accorded to nationals of a foreign country, in the same circumstances.’ Article 16 of the Convention talks about legal assistance available to the refugees. Chapter III of the Convention talks about the employment for the Refugees and categorize it further into three parts ‘ Wage – earning employment under Article 17 , facility for self-employment like agriculture, industry or any other wishful activity under Article 18 of the Convention and lastly, practicing the Professional expertise under Article 19 . As far as welfare of the Refugees in terms of food and other related issues are concerns, Chapter IV of the Convention which is divided in to Article 20 to 23 deals with the ration, housing arrangements, education and relieves available publically. Article 24 of the Convention, which is also of prime importance, states that:
‘1. The Contracting States shall accord to refugees lawfully staying in their territory the same treatment as is accorded to nationals in respect of the following matters:
(a)… remuneration, including family allowances where these form part of remuneration, hours of work, overtime arrangements, holidays with pay, restrictions on home work, minimum age of employment, apprenticeship and training, women’s work and the work of young persons, and the enjoyment of the benefits of collective bargaining;
(b)… Social security (legal provisions in respect of employment injury, occupational diseases, maternity, sickness, disability, old age, death, unemployment, family responsibilities and any other contingency which, according to national laws or regulations, is covered by a social security scheme), subject to the limitations’ It further provides for the right to compensation for the death of a refugee resulting from employment injury or from occupational disease and the benefits of agreements concluded between them, or which may be concluded between them in the future .
Refugees and Asylum at a glance
For centuries, people have been discriminated and forced to flee their homes because of conflict, political, racial and religious persecutions, natural disasters and inhuman treatments that took place in their societies. In exile, they sought either refuge or the protection of other countries. Human beings have migrated since the earliest societies. The first migrants were tribal people in search of food, water and resources. They were not yet refugees or asylum seekers; they were mere gatherers or hunters who began exploring new lands to settle. The land, provided for much of their basic needs and soon, ‘territory became associated with property’ . Conflicts emerged in order to gain or protect one’s territory, just like governments were created to organise and defend this very territory. In those early years, governments instituted laws and policies for security reasons in order to guard their natural resources. Not much has changed since then. The migration regulations that exist today were also introduced to enforce security throughout countries, as well as to fight terrorism or illegal traffic of people, drugs or weapons.
But what happens should governments fail to protect their citizens and if people become displaced for any reason? In such a case, they become refugees, asylum seekers, stateless or internally displaced persons. The first refugees abandoned their homes due to religious persecution or conflicts that emerged in their societies. But the highest number of refugees ever recorded, was produced during and after the two world wars. This led to the necessity of creating a structure that could help these people. In the 1950s, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was created, replacing the previous refugee agencies that existed under the League of Nations. Its mandate was to provide refugees with international protection, as well as to seek ‘permanent solutions for the problem of refugees by assisting governments and [‘] private organizations to facilitate the voluntary repatriation of such refugees, or their assimilation within new national communities’. Today, there are 43.3 million displaced people worldwide, of which 15.2 million are refugees, 27.1 million are internally displaced persons, and 1 million are waiting for their asylum application to be adjudicated, according to UNHCR’s 2009 report on refugees, asylum seekers, returnees, internally displaced and stateless persons . Many of them flee to neighboring countries to find protection. However, others, attracted by a higher standard of living, prefer western countries as destinations. The number one refugee hosting country in the western world is Germany, followed by the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Canada. Europe hosts a mere 16% of the world’s refugees, most of whom come from Afghanistan, Iraq, Serbia or Turkey . In terms of asylum applications, however, the European Union receives almost 200 000 asylum claims per year, becoming the main destination for asylum seekers in the western world and in second position after South Africa. This means that the European Union is playing a major role in deciding the fate of refugees and asylum seekers from all over the world.
Since time immemorial people have been fleeing their homelands during troubled times; both manmade and natural. Middle East is more prone to civil wars and conflicts. Syrian crisis is the latest scare on the face of humanity. It created worst ever refugee crisis of modern world. Through the prism of Syrian conflict we got to see the ugly side of almost all States whether it be European Union misusing public order clause to prevent refugees or Eastern European countries which are on a frenzy to build new taller, stronger border fencing. Even if we look at rich Arab states we can see through their hollow claims of Muslim brotherhood (Ummah). A glaring example would be Saudi Arabia (home to holiest cities in Islam), they have a ghost city ‘Mina’ which has capacity to host 10 million people. This tent city is used for pilgrims for 1 month every year. Through this research we would dive deep into the legal/religious rules and conventions governing the area of refugee laws and would try to find solution to the present refugee crisis.
The working hypothesis for this research is that most of the countries are not fulfilling their responsibilities towards refugees and are misusing/misinterpreting laws to deny rights to refugees.
The project work has been designed to fulfill following objectives, which could contribute and facilitate to enhance the understanding of Syrian Humanitarian crisis under refugee law regime in India & the world:-
1. To understand and the analyze concept of refuge in Islam and need for the propagation of correct ideas.
2. To make a comparative study of laws in US, EU, Middle East and India on Refugees & Asylum Seekers.
3. To study and analyze the global refugee law framework, and to study recent judicial trends in this field.
This research work is a detailed study of international and Middle Eastern refugee law framework so as to find out their adequacy or inadequacy in preventing humanitarian crisis and to make suggestions in this regard.
A uniform mode of citation has been followed throughout the course of this paper.
The doctrinal method of research has been used, which involve collection of data from both primary and secondary sources; primary sources like treaties, conventions, statutes, reports of the commissions and committees related thereto and Secondary sources like books written by various eminent authors and articles found in the journals and websites, e-journals. Use of internet also became very relevant to find out the most updated, relevant and apt information which helped me in exploring the subject from various dimensions. Inductive Methodology i.e. getting general results from specific points by analysis of literature studied has been also used.
This Dissertation is divided into 7 Chapters
1. In the first chapter researcher would provide an introduction to the issue. Researcher will attempt to answer the basic question: Who are refugees? What are the different definitions? And will take you through the journey of evolution of international refugee law regime.
2. In the second chapter researcher has written literature review on this topic. Although the topic is new and challenging, the researcher has put in his best effort to cover all the relevant literature on this area.
3. In the third chapter researcher will take you to the roots of Syrian crisis. From how it started to how it became the biggest refugee crisis of our time, researcher has tried to touch all the aspects of this issue viz. ISIS to al Nusra and Shia Militia to Kurds
4. In the fourth chapter we shall study the response of the first world countries, their legal framework, their challenges etc.. Germany and Sweden are providing positive response whereas France and Greece are still finding excuses.
5. In the fifth chapter we shall study the response of the middle eastern countries, their legal framework, their challenges etc.. Researcher will also explore the ideas of jiwar i.e. refuge in Islamic jurisprudence and check its compatibility with the modern concept.
6. In the sixth chapter we shall study the response of the India, our legal framework, our challenges etc.. Researcher in this chapter shall explore the past precedents and debate the requirement of Policy on refugees. It will also cover the need for reform of UN to make it more effective in dealing with these challenges.
7. In the seventh chapter the researcher has put down certain recommendations on this issue and this chapter being the last chapter also contains the conclusion.

The following section will provide a literature review on academic discussions of foreign policy, refugee policy, and the development of literature linking international relations and forced migration studies. It finds that there is a general gap in the literature linking perspectives of the above fields.
First, the study of foreign policy as a sub-field within the larger discipline of international relations began in the 1950s. Foreign policy is defined as ‘the strategy or approach chosen by the national government to achieve its goals in its relations with external entities,’ and foreign policy behavior is ‘the observable artifacts of foreign policy’ [And] may include the categorization of such behavior, such as along conflict-cooperation continua.’ This included foreign policy decision-making, bureaucratic and organizational politics, psychological aspects in formulation of foreign policy, and comparative foreign policy. The analysis of foreign policy borrows perspectives from the classic international relations schools of thoughts, realism, liberalism, and constructivism. Contemporary research in this field is increasingly looking at the interplay between different levels ‘ individual, nation-state, and international ‘ in formulating foreign policy. In addition, there have been more efforts to utilize findings from various social science disciplines.
Second, under the broader scholarship of forced migration studies, researchers have begun to comment on the use of refugee policies as a tool of foreign policy in the 1980s. According to International Factors in the Formation of Refugee Movements, receiving states can attract refugees and create a ‘pull’ factor with a policy that encourages admission, or with a restrictive policy that is poorly enforced. This becomes a tool of foreign policy since an open-door policy ‘usually implies condemnation of relevant government for persecuting its citizens, or at least failing to afford them protection. Teitelbaum argues along the same line with a more normative tone. He finds that mass expulsions from sending side can be used as tool to ‘destabilize or embarrass foreign policy adversaries,’ while for receiving countries, refugee admission can serve to ’embarrass and discredit adversary nations.’ In Refugee and International Relations, Loescher sums up these observations in that ‘government responses to refugee movements from neighboring or distant countries are greatly influenced by the relations between sending and receiving nations.’ These authors together highlight the connection between refugee policies and foreign policy.
In the 21st century, however, literature explicitly linking the greater disciplines of international relations and forced migration studies is still lacking. This is pointed out most openly in Refugees in International Relations, a compilation of essays resulting from a lecture series by both international relations and forced migration studies scholars at the University of Oxford. These essays point to the reasons why the two fields can benefit from learning from one another, as they overlap in the areas of ‘international cooperation, globalization, human rights, international organizations, regime complexity, non-state actors, regionalism, North-South relations, and security.’ Representing the school of realism, Jack Snyder’s article suggests the reason why realist scholars have often overlooked this field is because of realist tendency to reject all elements relating to humanitarianism, as it is considered a non-security goal. Similarly, Myron Weiner expressed scepticism in partnerships between states and humanitarian institutions, as governments place national interest as paramount in foreign policy decision-making, while humanitarian institutions form policies based on ethical and moral values. Nonetheless, Snyder points out those humanitarian actions can be viewed through a consequentialist approach, where ‘good intentions’ are only pursued if they ‘achieve good results. This suggests that humanitarian objectives can be used as instruments to pursue state interests, and thus should not be readily dismissed in the analysis of international relations. Finally, there has been development in expanding literature linking the two fields, most prominently where it relates to refugees and conflicts in the developing world. In Refugee Manipulation, Steve Stedman and Fred Tanner demonstrate how refugees and the refugee regime can be used as resources of war, and its implications for international security. Furthermore, since the early 1990s, refugees have often been catalysts in spreading conflict beyond borders.
Through the literature review, this dissertation finds that interdisciplinary studies incorporating forced migration and international relations are growing, but explicit literature on linking refugee policies to foreign policies is missing. The literature review also reveals benefits of expanding research in this area, as refugee policies are innately tied to politics. Furthermore, the study of foreign policy involves conflict-cooperation in state behavior, entailing an examination of this in bilateral relations.

The Syrian Civil war has caused approximately 2.7 million Syrians to leave their country since 2011, and double that many are expected to have fled Syria by the end of 2014. The Syrian refugee crisis has brought tremendous challenges to the region, and this research attempts to map out one aspect of the crisis that has received very little attention: that is, the laws and policies at the international, regional and domestic level affecting the rights and status of the refugees flooding out of Syria.
As described at length below, countries currently hosting the vast majority of the refugee flow out of Syria are stretched to the limits of their resources. Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt have huge refugee populations pre-dating the Syrian influx. Many, if not most, of these preexisting refugee groups live in desperate conditions, and host countries cannot meet all the refugees’ assistance and protection needs. Lebanon and Egypt’s unemployment rates are in the double-digits. Jordan is the fourth most water-stressed country in the world, with insufficient potable water for its own people. Lebanon and Egypt have extremely volatile political environments, and unstable governments. The Lebanese consider the Syrian conflict to have already crossed inside their territory and fear another civil war as a direct consequence if the war inside Syria is not halted soon. Turkey, the most stable host country, has already expended over $2.5 billion on assisting refugees from Syria ‘a figure exceeding the entire EU contribution to the crisis thus far’and cannot by itself continue indefinitely to provide for the needs of the ever-growing refugee population coming over its long border with Syria.
UNHCR’s 2014 Syria Regional Response Plan requests 4.2 billion U.S. dollars in financial aid. This disseratation, like the majority of reports and requests to the international community of states and donors, focuses on funneling financial resources into the countries hosting the refugees from Syria. While this aid is certainly important, researcher believes that it illustrates a containment paradigm that is unsustainable and dangerous, rather than an approach that more equitably shares the responsibility towards the individual refugees among the wider community of states outside the current host region. Ant”nio Guterres, the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees, has emphasized the critical need to change the paradigm, saying: ”it is not only financial, economic, and technical support to these States which is needed . . . It also includes . . . resettlement, humanitarian admission, family reunification, or similar mechanisms [for] refugees who are today in the neighboring countries but who cannot find a solution outside the region.”
This dissertation makes an urgent call for a global Comprehensive Plan of Action (‘CPA’) that builds on UNHCR’s recommendation that ‘the international community . . . show solidarity with countries hosting Syrian refugees in the region by offering resettlement opportunities, humanitarian admission places, and family reunification or other forms of admission for Syrian refugees.’ The recommendations in this dissertation differ somewhat from the humanitarian admissions proposal advanced by UNHCR, which asks countries to ‘admit up to 30,000 Syrian refugees on resettlement, humanitarian admission, or other programmes by the end of 2014, with a focus on protecting the most vulnerable.’ Currently, with three million refugees from Syria outside their home territory, resettlement can only be a partial solution– restricted as it is to only the most exceptional opportunities for the most vulnerable individuals. Countries outside the current host region must begin considering much more open policies to allow at least partial integration of Syrians into their states, both to alleviate the burden on current host countries, and to prevent the inevitable unfolding of an even greater humanitarian and security crisis than is already occurring .
The uprising that erupted in the town of Dara’a in March 2011 is largely regarded as the beginning of the Syrian version of the ‘Arab Spring’. Although there has been agreeable similarity among the uprising occurred in the Arab states it is also clear that underlying causes of the uprisings have a peculiar character that specifically pertain to the particular state’s behavior and political development. Demonstrations do not simply erupt in a given state because there has been demonstration next door (neighboring states) .
They are more often than not results of deep rooted political, economic, cultural and social problems. Hence, in this section attempt is made to identify the main causes of the crisis. In other words, the reasons that brought such strong resistance against the established regime. The causes of the uprising can be classified as the root causes and the immediate causes of the conflict .
a. Root causes of the uprising
Since independence, Syria has been struggling to form a political system that is based on inclusion and consensus. In addition, some of the problems could be traced back to the country’s colonial experience. Following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War, Syria falls under French protectorate. France ruled Syria and made its Western part, Lebanon, an independent entity. This is the reason why there is a strong link between Syrian and Lebanese politics today . The French ruled Syria in a divided manner and gave primacy for the various ethno-religious groups in the country. Most of the main ethnoreligious groups have a territorial base. For instance, the Sunnis live in most of the major cities like Aleppo, Homes and Dara’a where there has been a high level of violence in the present crisis. The divide and rule colonial policy of France imposed on Syria had a strong religious angle. As William L. Cleveland and Martin Buton explained, France saw itself as ‘self-proclaimed protector of the Christian communities in Levant (Greater Syria) ‘ and especially of the Catholic Maronities of Mount Lebanon- France professed a moral duty to continue its long- standing religious and educational activities in the region’ . This resulted in ‘sectarian conflict [that France saw as] was a theoretical necessity for French colonialism in Syria, since the entire colonial mission was based on the idea of protecting one sectarian community, the Maronite Christians. By the same token, Provence argued for France in Syria ‘without sectarian conflict, colonial justification evaporates’ .
Hence, the French presence promoted the alienation of the Muslim majority and paved the way for religious and ethnic disintegration of Syria. Since independence in 1946, there has been a struggle in Syria between the forces of unity (pan-Arabism, nationalism) and the forces of disunity (a desire to create independent ethno-religious state). Up until the coming to power of Hafez al Asad in November 1970, who himself came to power in a coup, Syria experienced a number of political turns and upheavals that include several coups. Assad was a member of the military wing of the Baath party i.e. a nationalist socialist leaning party. Asad’s control of power marked the beginning of Alawaite political, military and security domination in Syria. The Alawaite sect started to be regarded as part of the Shi’a faction since 1920s. This move helped the Alawis to end their isolation and enabled them to integrate into the Syrian society. The sect was regarded largely as, before 1920s, ‘an extremist sect’ heretic outside of Islam’ (Talhamy, 2009: 562). The Alawis control of power has been the major reason for the Muslim Brotherhood of Syria’s opposition. The Muslim Brotherhood is part of the Sunni Muslim. According to the Brotherhood, a Sunni dominated Syria should be ruled by Sharia. In addition, the Brotherhood is suspicious of a Syria Alawi rulers close relation with Iran- the center of Shi’as. The Brotherhood fears ‘the alliance [the Alawi Shi’a of Syria and Iran] is a stage in a Shi’ite scheme to take over the Sunni countries, including Syria’. This seems the basic reason behind the presence of strong Islamic current in the present crisis. Perhaps this explains why Iran has been adamant in supporting the ‘Alawi Barons’ and Sunni dominated states like Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been supporting the opposition .
Asad established an autocratic state dominated by his own family and religious sect. He earned a nickname”the Sphinx of Damascus’ to indicate his brutality and divide and rule method of governing. Internally, there were several oppositions against his rule. Most of the oppositions were organized by the Muslim Brotherhood and liberal political groups. For instance, in 1982 a general strike that started in Aleppo spread to other areas like Hama. The latter was kept autonomous for almost three weeks. However, at the end the Asad regime was able to suppress the uprising. The uprising took the lives of around 20,000 people. Subsequently, the Muslim Brotherhood was banned and capital punishment was re introduced to members and supporters of the organization. This shows that popular uprising is not new for Syria. In addition, the ability of opposition political groups to agitate large number of people for political and politico-religious ends appears as part of the Syrian political experience.
In its external relations Syria under Asad built strong relationship with some states (like Iran particularly after the revolution that toppled the Shah) and groups (like Hezballah a Lebanese Shi’a military group established in 1982). Syria has been alienated from the Arab and the Sunni World since early 1980s. Major reasons include Syrian continued relation with Iran during the Iraq-Iran War (1980-88) and its support for Maronite in Lebanon Civil War in 1982. It had built unproductive relation with neighboring state like Israel and Iraq as well as Turkey. At the international level Syria has been a close ally of the USSR and of today’s Russian Federation. Although there were some good periods of cooperation between Syria and the US, the Syria-US relation during Asad could be categorized as not harmonious .
Hence, these global and regional powers have been taking different sides in the present conflict. In sum, the underlying causes of the crisis in Syria are both domestic and external. Internally, the resentment against Alwait power control for so long, absence of political and economic progress and the aspiration for freedom are worth mentioning. Externally, the country’s historical foreign relation choice produced both foes and friends at the regional and international level that are involved heavily in the present crisis.

b. Immediate causes of the uprising
In 2000 following the smooth transition of power from Hafez-el Asad (after his death) to Bashar al Asad, Rachel Bronson in her article ”Syria: Hanging Together or Hanging Separately’ underpinning the situation she asked this: ‘Has the seemingly uncontrollable Syrian domestic scene been tamed, or is it simmering beneath the surface waiting to explode?’ (Bronson, 2000: 92) Today we can say the Syrian pot using the Arab Spring as a pretext is exploded. The immediate causes for the ongoing crisis are highly connected to Bashar’s coming to power in June 2000. The major causes include domestic (political, economic, cultural and social) and regional. Most of the politico-socio-economic and religious problems can be traced to the root causes .
One of the turning points in Syrian recent political history is the ‘Damascus Spring’. It was a window of opening in the political space. The Damascus Spring was a discussion or forum inaugurated by Bashar as part of his political reform programs. Although it was short lived the Damascus Spring revived the position of the opposition and enhanced the political consciousness of the mass. It gave the people optimism about the new ruler i.e. Bashar al Assad. In turn, the new regime used it to check critical voices.
However, the political and academic elite used the opportunity to establish various civil societies and documents like the Communiqu” of the 99 Intellectuals, Manifesto of the Thousands, and Movement for Social Peace etc. In these Forums and Media the intellectual community debated about the future of the state and indicated the need for political reform. The Syrian elite, notwithstanding, had begun to demand for more political reform and greater public involvement in the political discourse of the state. For instance, the Communiqu” of the 99 intellectuals called the Bashar regime ” to cancel the state of emergency and martial law applied in Syria since 1963, a general amnesty for all political prisoners, the return of all exiles, the establishment of the state of law, a grant of general freedom, and the recognition of political and intellectual plurality, as well as freedom of association, freedom of the press, and the free expression of opinion’. Similarly in 2001, a group of Syrian intellectuals prepared the ‘Manifesto of the Thousands’ that ‘ analyzed critically the period between the Baath party’s rise to power on 8 March 1963, and Hafez al- Asad’s ascendency to the presidency in November 1970” This made many of the old bulk of the ruling bureaucracy furious. This forced Bashar to revert to the old days of political suppression, bringing to an end the Damascus Spring. The regime announced a ‘stifle’ regulation on the dialogue forums. These include categorizing intellectuals who participated in the forums as foreign agents and the arrest of main players of the movement effectively brought to an end to the Damascus Spring on 11 September 2001. Syria under Bashar from then onwards remains a suppressive ‘totalitarian’ state .
Adding to this absence of freedom, Syrians continue to demand an end to Alawi dominated politics and marginalization of non-Alawit. The Sunni group’s aspiration to restore their community’s past hegemonic position and political Muslim groups’ views Alawis as apostates and their resentment toward the Baath Party has contributed to the escalation of the crisis. The struggle for power in Syria was not smooth and showed the presence of ‘deep division between and among Sunnis and Alawis, land owners and the disposed, communists and non-communist, those from Damascus and from Aleppo, urban and ruler dwellers, pan-Arabists and nationalists and others’ The impact of this division is eminent in the present crisis that made it challenging to find a compromise between the different groups fighting the regime and form a coalition.
The economic problems that dated back to the reign of Hafez al Asad further aggravated during Bashar’s reign. One of the main reasons has been the change in context, which include rapid population growth, rising unemployment, rising cost of living, increased debt and rampant corruption beside others. The attempt by the regime to implement a top-down ‘cosmic approach’ to change was not successful. Likewise, the poor public facilities brought ‘widespread popular dissatisfaction over the provisions of such amenities as water, electricity, roads, and transport, and the deteriorating living standards of citizens’ that served as a catalyst for the ongoing crisis. Finally, the Arab Spring completed the picture. The Syrian uprising is part of the Arab Spring that swept the Arab world since early 2011. The demonstrations that forced regime change in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen were the inspiration behind the rise of the Syrian public in large numbers. The next section identifies the similarities and differences of the Syrian uprising with the rest of the Arab world briefly .
The Arab Spring and the Syrian Uprising
The Syrian uprising has many features that make it part of the Arab Spring. The Arab Spring which was started in Tunisia, in February 2011, following the self-immolation of Mohammed Bouazzizi, almost spread to all the neighboring Arab nations across the Middle East and North Africa, Syria no exception .
The Middle East states share a greater degree of similarity compare to most parts of the world. Major similarities in the region include ‘politically-low levels of democratization and high level of authoritarianism; economically ‘rentier economies and low level of economic liberalization; and culturally- predominantly Arab and Islamic’. There is a high degree of socio-cultural and religious similarity among the countries of the Middle East. However, there is also a recognizable, but lesser degree of diversity, in ethnicity, religion and so on in the Middle East. Politically, one of the basic similarities among all Arab nations had been the presence of ‘autocracy riddled with corruption and ruled by despotic leaders backed by imperial powers’. The presence of similar political context has been the major catalyst for the spread of the Arab Spring from one Arab nation to the other in less than span of a year. The protestors’ demand the slogan they use and the dictators’ response has been more or less the same in these states. Nevertheless, in some states the demonstration came to an end, relatively, in short period of time, whereas in other states it is lingering and in Syria it is threating to evolve into an all-out civil war .
Like the other Arab rulers the Syrian ruler Bashar is not bound to any apparent term of limit. For instance, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt ruled for 30 years; Muammar Qadhafi of Libya remained in office for 42 years; Zine el-Abidin Ben Ali of Tunisia for 23 years and Ali Abdullah Salah of Yemen for 33 years. Bashar al- Asad, who inherited power from his father in 2000, like the mentioned dictators, heavily relied on the military-security-police apparatus to remain in power. Noteworthy, the army that has a detrimental role in the outcome of the protest responded in these states in quite different ways. In Egypt and Tunisia the army supported the protestors and forced the rulers to step down or flee. In Libya and Yemen the army split threatening a civil war but ended in removal of the rulers. In Bahrain and Syria, however, the army supported the rulers. The other detrimental factor that influences the outcome of the Arab Spring has been the nature of outside involvement .
In this regard Egypt and Tunisia experienced limited foreign intervention. In the case of Libya foreign intervention was there like intensive NATO bombardment against Qadhafi, whereas in Bahrain the Saudi’s openly supported the Monarch militarily. In Syria, however, the outside community both regional and global powers have been taking different sides. On one side, the regime in Damascus has been receiving assistance from regional powers like Iran and global powers like the Russian Federation. On the other side, the opposition groups are receiving assistance from regional powers like Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey; and global powers like France and the US have been involved. These developments threaten the stability of not only Syria but also the region at large .
The Syrian uprising has been descending to a civil war. Since the protest started around 60,000 Syrians have been killed. According to the UN, more than three million Syrians are directly affected and 2.5 million Syrian require assistance. There are also around 1.2 million Syrians who are internally displaced.
More than 500,000 Syrians already have been seeking refuge in the neighboring states. According to Amnesty International, around ‘11,000 people are fleeing the conflict [inside Syria] in a 24-hour period’ (November 12, 2012). The present Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations (UN) and the League of Arab States, Lakhdar Brahimi, warned the international community to find a solution for the Syrian crisis before it ‘change to hell’ The Commissioner also indicated the potential of the conflict leading to ‘state failure’.
The conflict has been going on between Bashar al Asad’s regime and rebel groups. Different internal and external groups have been also consolidating along the two antagonistic groups. The regime under Basher al Asad is largely made up Alawis, particularly the military, intelligence, shabbiha (youth organized by the regime) and other security apparatus are dominated by Alawis. The urban wealth, the members of other minority groups- Durz and Christians are also allied to the regime in power. The Asad camp enjoys a greater military superiority including unrivaled air dominance. Externally, the regime has been getting support from Iran and Russia. In addition, it kept good relation with Shi’a dominated Iraqi government and Hizbullah (also Shia group) dominated Lebanon. However, despite its military superiority and continued foreign assistance the regime has been facing a stiff resistance from the opposition (rebels).
The rebels/opposition fighting the Syrian regime has been largely drawn from the Sunni majority, particularly amongst the rural poor. The opposition has been community based and highly divided. There has been a division within the opposition on several areas that includes strategy, tactics, coordination, and leadership. The prominent opposition groups include the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the Syrian National Council (SNC), Jabhat al-Nusra li-Ahl al-Sham (The Support Front for the People of Syria), the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change (NCB), Kata’ib Ahrar al-Sham (The Freemen of Syria Battalions), Liwa al-Islam (Islam’s Brigade), Katibat al-Ansar (Supporters’ Battalion), and Local Coordination Committees (LCC) (International Crisis Group, 2012: 17-24), more recently National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary .
Most of the opposition enjoys support from external actors. The US, Turkey, several number of EU states, and Gulf States have been major suppliers of arms and finical assistance to the rebel groups. There have been also reports of foreign fighters especially from the Middle East countries fighting on the side of the rebels. One of the major weaknesses of the opposition has been its fragmentation. The Syrian National Council is the first group to be recognized as the legitimate representative of Syrian people by several nations including the US, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and others. However, the US recently categorized the Jabhat al-Nusra, the largest military group on the ground, as a terrorist organization. This shows the presence of division among the supporters of Syrian opposition on whom to support and whom to keep at bay from taking over. In addition, the nature and extent of support remains a bone of contention among the so-called friends of Syria. Recently, the opposition organized under a new coalition ‘ the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary, but it fails to incorporate all the major fighting groups together .
The fighting has engulfed almost every part of Syria including the major cities of Allepo in the north, some parts of Damascus, Homs, Hama and others. The Christian minority groups and Druz are caught in the middle between what has been increasingly looks like a sectarian conflict between the Sunni rebels and Alawite dominate regime. Both sides have been repeatedly accused of international humanitarian law violation. The nature of the conflict and the asymmetric power balance between the rebels and the regime forces puts a high toll on the civilian population at large. The opposition has been waging what looks like urban based guerrilla warfare against the Asad regime. In addition, the opposition also uses improvised explosive to target high level regime officials. There have been also reports of suicide bombing by certain groups in the opposition. The rebels were accused of several violation of international humanitarian law that includes crime against humanity . Most of the accusation is related to the ‘unlawful killings of captives’. The Asad regime enjoys considerable military superiority over the rebels. The Syrian regime has been accused of ‘indiscriminate aerial bombardment and artillery shelling in heavily populated civilian areas’. In addition, there are reports of the regime forces dropping cluster bombs unconventional weapon- on civilian inhabited areas. These attacks amount to war crimes. The air bombardment also disrupted basic services in several cities and villages. The absence of consensus in the UN Security Council already exhausted Koffi Annan’s effort to broker a negotiated settlement between the fighting groups. The present Special Commissioner of the United Nations (UN) and the League of Arab States, Lakhdar Brahimi has been also showing a sign of fatigue . In the last month (December 2012) he has been traveling to Tehran, Moscow, Damascus and other capitals to secure a cease-fire that will be followed with a national transitional government to bring a lasting solution. Nevertheless, the opposition unwillingness to negotiate while Asad is in power and the regime’s stubborn position not to replace Asad seem to hinder any step toward a ceasefire in the foreseeable future.
Geopolitical Significance of Syria
Geographically, Syria is part of the core Middle East. The country was part of the region formerly known as Levant which includes Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine. The region is surrounded by Egypt in the southwest, Iraq in the northeast and Turkey in the northwest. According to Waskim ‘Syrian politics in the 20th century was continuously unstable due to the rivalries of three geopolitical powers: Iraq, Turkey and Egypt) . The region that traditionally falls under the influence of Iraq was the northeast part of Syria that incorporates al Hassaka, al Qamishi, al Boukamal and Euphrates . Turkey commanded the Aleppo region, and the Hashimite Kingdom of Jordan established strong relation with southern Syria.
Syria served as a launching pad for Turkey and the West into the heartland of Arabia. However, since 1970s Syria has started to assert itself as a major power in the regional political theater.
Since 1970s geopolitically Syria has become a major player in the region. Its main foreign policy encompasses ‘fulfill[ling] their [Syrian] duty towards their Arab brothers to defend Arab nation against foreign aggression and schemes’. In early 1970s Syria built a strong relation with Egypt that include the two countries joint military venture against Israel in the 1973 Arab-Israel War. Nevertheless, Egypt withdrew from the war early bringing to an end the Syria-Egypt axis. In addition, Syria fails to regain its occupied territory in the 1967 War, the Golan Heights. In turn, these developments weakened the ‘Syrian position vis-”-vis Israel’. To restore the power balance against Israel, Hafez-al-Asad forged a strategic partnership with Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The Syrian aspiration to remain powerful in the Middle East is also exemplified in its intervention in the 1975 Lebanon Civil War. Lebanon is crucial for Syria, because of Lebanon’s geopolitical proximity with Damascus- a political and economic center of Syria.
The end of the Cold War and the subsequent demise of USSR, main ally of Syria, weakened Syria because of the US’s increased involvement in the region that follow. As part of Eurasia, a region vital to the domination of the world, Syria remains US’s high foreign policy priority. Syria recognizing the US hegemonic role attempted to amend its relation with the US. For instance, Syria supported the 1990 US invasion of Iraq and agreed not to oppose the peace process that possibly could end the isolation of Israel in the region .
Thus, what is happening in Syria has a high probability of diffusion to the neighboring state like Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey. The Syrian regime could also mobilize its close allies in the region such as Hezballah and Hamas. In addition, it has close relation with Shi’a Iran. On the contrary, Syria is at odds with Saudi Arabia, US and Israel. A combination of such rivalry might push the region towards further dangerous edge .

The Syrian crisis continued to remain divisive to the major powers of the world. The permanent members of the UN Security Council have been perusing a varied discourse on the issue of Syria. The US with its traditional allies have been inclined toward the rebels/opposition. However, Russia and China are looking to accept only a limited change without upsetting the power balance in the region.
The US has a chequered relation with Syria. Since the Second World War, the US has always a vested interest in the Middle East. It’s for most interest in the region include economic (ensuring oil flow), strategic (the geopolitical significance), and protection of Israel. The US has been the most powerful player in the region with five military bases in five different states and has close security cooperation with the major regional actors like Turkey, Israel, and Egypt. Since the late 1970s, the only two states remain oppose to the US domination of the region have been Iran and Syria . In the 1990s the US- Syrian relation appeared reviving. However, the lack of progress in the Palestine ‘Israel peace talk, the issue that brought them together, reduced the reasons for the strengthening of Syria- US relations.
After 9/11 the relation between the two states has become more difficult. The US has been accusing Syria on several charges including terrorism- State sponsored terrorism. It also disdains Syria’s close relation with Hizballah of Lebanon, Iran and armed Palestinian groups. Syria, in its part, opposes US partial support to Israel and was against the US second invasion of Iraq. In addition, Syria supports the Iran nuclear program. Syria has been already under more than a dozen of US economic sanctions. Therefore, it was not a surprise when the US starts condemning the Syrian regime at the early stage of the uprising while turning a deaf-ear to the popular uprising in Bahrain. The US has been also one of the first states to call Bashar al Asad to resign. According to Balanchard and Sharp, the US is still ‘[expecting] believe that president Bashar al-Asad, his family members, and his support will ultimately be forced from power’ (2012: 1). In other words, the US has been trying to achieve regime change in Syria without militarily intervening. The US has been trying to pressure the UN Security Council to pass tougher resolutions against the regime. However, the Chinese and Russian veto has been holding back such resolution from passing. Noteworthy, US unabated has been active in organizing and supporting the opposition cautiously as well as unilaterally imposing sanctions on the Asad regime. The US security priority in Syria appears in a state of paradox. On one hand, the US would like to see Asad out of office. On the other hand, the US has been highly suspicious of the rebels. The presence of significant number of Sunni ‘extremist’ groups within the opposition has been making the US uneasy to
extend a generous support. The US considers opposition fighters of the al Nusra, Limma al Umma and others as sympathizers of al Qeada. (Blanchard and Sharp, 2012b: 7) The US has been also worried about the post Asad Syria. Neglecting to cooperate with the opposition in this difficult time might further tarnish the US poor popularity in Syria. Perhaps the post Asad Syria may become more hostile to the US and its allies in the region more than the Asads. Hence, the US finds itself in this state of Pandora where it could not risk totally ignoring the opposition and at the same time suspicious of it.
The US immediate concern on the unfolding Syrian crisis seems to revolve around three main security challenges. First, the US appears worried about the safety of the Syrian weapon piles especially its chemical weapons. The US has been even threatening militarily intervention if it suspects these weapons are unaccounted for. US fears if it falls on anti-US groups it could be used to attack US targets in the region and beyond. Second, the US seems concerned about Syrian crisis spilling over to the neighboring states of Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq. This development might also endanger the stability of the region at large and affect the US interest. Third, the mutating Syrian crisis might evolve into a civil war with no clear winner that creates a security vacuum. This security gap US fear will be a safe haven for groups like al Qaeda to capitalize .
Based on these worries the US has been pushing forward several anti-Asad policies. These include demanding a political transition, unilateral sanction, non-lethal aid, intelligence coordination, disruption of arms shipment to the regime, contingency planning, and preparing for transition. The US also has been exerting its influence on the Iraqi regime to close or vividly monitor the Iraqi-Syria border. This has been mainly to hinder movement of goods including arms between Syria and Iran via Iraq. It has been also true that the US ‘Administration pressured Iraqi leaders to close Iraqi air space to Iran-to-Syria cargo flights clandestinely carrying weapons.’ (Blanchard and Sharp: 12-14) The establishment of pro-US regime in Syria will have several benefits to the US. First, a pro-US Damascus means the further isolation of Iran and its prot”g” Hizballah from the regional political theatre. This might proof particularly beneficial if the US decided to confront Iran militarily over its nuclear programs. Second, a pro-US regime in Syria will cut off Russian access to the east of Mediterranean Sea giving NATO and the US unrivaled control. Moreover, a pro-US government in Syria could strengths the Sunni axis in the region to counter-balance Iran’s growing power in the region. The US has been also working with Turkey under NATO to step up military pressure against Asad. Be that as it may, US possible direct military intervention remains elusive. It seems there has been limited appetite for US intervention both in the US political circle and among the Syrian opposition. The opposition has been looking for Western assistance including imposing no-fly zone against Asad, but remained opposed to any direct foreign military intervention. Moreover, the absence of consensus in the UN Security Council has been discouraging. Furthermore, the unpopularity of the US led Libyan intervention appears to wane international support for direct military intervention at large .

USA and International refugee Law:
The United States The United States resettled 58,238 refugees in 2012, only 31 of whom were from Syria.52 According to the U.S. State Department, ‘[a]rrivals [in 2013] are on-pace to exceed FY 2012 arrivals by more than 10,000 individuals, and will come very near to reaching the President’s authorized ceiling of 70,000.’ Although this was an improvement over prior years, and occurred in part because of better ‘synchronization of security and medical checks for refugee families,’ it was yet another year in over a decade that the US had not even met its resettlement quota.
US resettlement programs today are severely constrained by the inadmissibility grounds incorporated in US immigration law under the ‘material support to terrorism,’ ‘terrorist organization’ and ‘terrorist activity’ grounds. These bars to admission in the US have been applied so broadly that they prevent resettlement of persons who have no connection to terrorism, or whose connection is inadvertent or coerced. The definitions apply to persons who were involved in armed conflict– inadvertent or not– as a non-state actor, or who gave any form of actual or inchoate support to someone who was involved as such. Reports have documented how these provisions have been applied to ‘exclude Iraqi refugees who supported the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Sudanese who fought against the armed forces of President Omar Al-Bashir, and Eritreans who fought for independence from Ethiopia.’ For Syrians, the bars would apply to preclude anyone who was involved in fighting with an armed opposition group, or who supported such a group in any way, including soliciting funds for them. The bar goes so far as excluding family members of persons who provided such ‘material support’ to such groups. As has happened to many others seeking refugee status in the US, Syrians would be prevented from resettling who are no threat to the country whatsoever.
Unfortunately, these already restrictive provisions have been interpreted even more narrowly by federal government agencies involved in applying them. The material support provision has been applied to bar ‘even the most minimal donation by rebel groups, to ordinary commercial transactions with armed groups or their members, and to assistance that has nothing to do with the furtherance of violent acts, e.g. donations of medical supplies.’ In contradiction to the US’ own foreign policy goals, the law would bar supporters of the opposition, but not apply to bar members of the armed forces of the Syrian regime. An important population for our recommendation that the US must prioritize pre-existing populations of refugees is the Iraqis who have been granted resettlement but fall under the bars who have been in limbo in Syria. These number approximately 4,000, most of whom worked with US forces or US organizations during the war. At least 1,500 have been approved for resettlement, and thousands more are awaiting interviews with USCIS. Since the US has closed its embassy in Damascus, and USCIS officials are no longer traveling to Syria, these individuals remain in limbo unless they can get to US embassies elsewhere. Among those who have been granted resettlement are many whose resettlement is blocked due to application of the material support bars. Pending a full review and overhaul of the terrorism bars, the US government needs to put waivers and exemptions in place to allow resettlement of those who involuntarily, out of necessity, or unintentionally provided support to an armed group; and to exempt anyone simply for being a family member of someone who provided such support. Human Rights First has issued several reports on, and made the case for how waivers should operate for Syrian and Iraqi refugees to allow resettlement to move forward: ‘While a lasting solution to the unintended consequences of the immigration law’s ‘terrorism’ bars will require amendment of the underlying statutory definitions so that these focus on actual terrorists, in the interim, the U.S. government should act now to allow exemptions to be issued on a case-by-case basis to anyone who voluntarily provided non-violent assistance to a Syrian armed opposition group’.while current combatants will not be eligible for refugee protection, provision should be made for former combatants who otherwise meet the refugee definition and are not subject to any other bars and (1) were children at the time or (2) did not participate in, or knowingly provide materials support to, activities that targeted noncombatants or US interests.’
Existing refugee populations seeking resettlement have encountered problems with security clearances as well as medical testing. Commenting on the US response to the Iraqi refugee crisis of the past decade, analysts have noted that ‘[s]ecurity clearance issues can be streamlined if U.S. agencies continue to coordinate and work with security vetting agencies . . . [which] have shown the potential to quickly return interagency security checks.’ Additionally, delays due to false positives in medical testing for diseases like tuberculosis ‘can also be ameliorated if an alternative and quicker form of testing is implemented to prevent individuals [who are not ill]. . . from being unnecessarily retested.’ Refugee status determination interviews could be ‘conducted by videoconferences’ to further increase the speed of refugee status determination and resettlement By November 2013, the United States still had ‘resettled very few Syrian refugees and has not yet scaled up for resettlement by increasing staffing at its Resettlement Support Centers in Amman and Istanbul.’ In its report to Congress for refugee resettlement slots for 2014, the State Department acknowledged that it expected increased ‘UNHCR referrals of particularly vulnerable Syrian refugees residing in neighboring countries, given UNHCR’s mid-2013 decision that third-country resettlement will play a role in its response to the Syrian refugee crisis.’ However, the proposed regional ceiling for FY 2014 for refugees from South Asia and the Near East remains at only 35,000 individuals, ‘including vulnerable Iraqis, Bhutanese, Iranians, Syrians, Pakistanis, and Afghans.’ The US has pledged an ‘open-ended number’ of resettlement slots for Syrian refugees, but it is unclear how that will operate in light of the regional and global refugee admissions ceiling of 70,000 that remains in place. Consistent with the ME region-wide civil society support for prioritizing resettlement of preexisting, non-Syrian populations, we urge the US to also prioritize its existing commitments to such refugee populations in the region as the Iraqis, Somalis, Sudanese, Afghans and Iranians.
Traditionally, Russia has close relation with the Middle East countries that date back to millennia. Although Russia is predominantly a Christian (Eastern Orthodox) state it has a significant Muslim minority. Russia considers the Middle East important region for its strategic, economic, and hegemonic interests. Geopolitically, the Middle East is the Russian southern neighbor where Moscow fears has been the source of religious radicalization in the north Caucasus. Economically, Russia aims to expand its energy and arms trade to the region. In addition, Russia fears the rising ‘US military presence in the region as a potential security threat to Russia’ (Trenin, 2010: 3-4). Syria- Russia diplomatic relations that date back to the mid -1940s has remained strong. According to Dimtri Trenin, Syria has been to Russia ‘the last surviving member of the once- strong group of Moscow’s regional allies’ (Trenin: 9). Syria, in its part sees ‘Moscow to be their [Syrians] only dependable global ally’ (Kreutz, 2007: 16). Despite their differences on several issues Syria and Russia have been keeping their relation intact. For instance, during the Ethiopian thirty- years civil war (1961- 1991) Russia was arming the Addis Ababa regime, while Syria was strongly supporting the secessionist Eritrean Peoples’ Liberation Front. However, the present Syrian crisis appears to be one of the major challenges the Syria-Russian friendship has to endure.
Russia has been one of the few international powers currently on the side the Asad regime. In other words Moscow is ‘shielding Bashar al Assad’s regime from international opprobrium and pressure’ (Clark, 2012: 43). Russia continues to support the regime for several reasons. First, geostrategically Syria has been one of the remaining allies of Russia in the Middle East. Russia still controls the Black Sea east coast that provides access to the Mediterranean Sea, which links Russia to the Mediterranean Sea, Southern Europe, Africa, and Asia. This makes the Arab states, like Syria, located in the eastern coast of the Mediterranean crucial because it is Russia’s essential ‘transportation line’ [that] connect Russia with the Southern Hemisphere’ (Kreutz: 11). In addition, the Russian Navy views the ‘facility at Tartus (Syria) as its strong point’ (Trenin: 9) in the Mediterranean Sea. Hence, any change to the statuesque in this region is perceived as a threat in Moscow. Second, Russia continued to support Asad because of economic causes. Russian economic interest in Syria includes ‘arms sales, gas pipelines, and nuclear energy projects’ (Trenin: 10). Third, Russia continues its support to Asad because of the absence of a trusted allay within the opposition camp that ensures the resumption of Syria- Russian relations. Fourth, Russia aims to check the growing US presence in the region. Moreover, Russia needs to monitor the region closely to ensure its national security, particularly in relation to the problem in Chechen. Russia also opposed tougher sanctions and possible military intervention in the UN Security Council mainly due to Putin’s suspicion of the Western states
motives. In addition, ‘Mr. Putin was infuriated by what he saw as the West’s misuse of a UN Security Council resolution on Libya in March [2011] in order to launch a military offensive which ultimately resulted in a Libyan regime change, precisely what the West promised not to do’
Russia has been supporting the UN-Arab League sponsored mediation that up to now appears fruitless. It also attempted to organize the opposition so that a controlled transition could be made possible but with no avail. For instance, in July 2012, Russia ‘endorsed a Syria “Action Group” plan that called for a transitional government in Damascus, but Moscow was keen to have the proposal omit any explicit demands for Assad to leave power’ (Jonathan Masters,2012). In the meantime Russia is continuing its support to the regime both in terms of arms and diplomacy. The Russian ‘ US open rivalry is a reminder of the Cold War antagonism between the two states. If the Syrian crisis prolonged further it may have a damage impact on US- Russia relations because the two states are pursuing a divergent course in Syria. The Russian unfettered support to Asad perhaps damages the Russian image in large number of Arab states and put in jeopardy the Turkish- Russian relations. In the eventuality of Asad’s departure Russia might lose Syria for long .
Russia and International refugee Law:
Migration is a significant issue for Russia, which has the second longest land border of any country at 12,577 miles and more than 23,000 miles of coastline. Russia shares borders with fourteen countries and, according to recent data from the World Bank, is among the top five migrant destination countries. Russia, with 12.3 million immigrants, was the second most frequent migrant destination country in the world after the US in 2010. Most immigrants moved to Russia primarily for economic reasons.
The majority of migrants to Russia are coming from the former Soviet republics of Transcaucasia and Central Asia; countries of the Middle East and North Africa affected by recent conflicts; and Ukraine where, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), nearly one million people were internally displaced by the ongoing conflict with Russia in the southeastern part of the country. Since February 2014, some 600,000 Ukrainians have sought asylum or other forms of legal stay in neighboring countries, mainly in the Russian Federation.
The Federal Migration Service of the Russian Federation (FMS), a government agency dealing with migration, reported that in 2014, 6,980 people from sixty-five countries applied for refugee status, and 267,764 people requested temporary asylum in the Russian Federation. Most applicants were from Ukraine (5,789 refugee applicants and 265,448 temporary asylum seekers), Syria (473 refugee applicants and 1,435 temporary asylum seekers), and Afghanistan (301 and 396 respectively).
Illegal migration is a substantial problem for Russian migration control services; however, after the automated migration control system became fully operational in 2014, and following the adoption of laws that increased punishments for overstaying visas and established simplified procedures for receiving work permits by labor migrants, the number of foreign nationals who are in the country illegally has decreased . Reportedly, more than 1.2 million foreigners were deported and banned from reentry for lengthy periods of time for overstaying their visas in 2014.
According to the FMS, the aim of all major legislative and regulatory activities in the field of migration is to better regulate migratory processes and minimize the negative consequences of unregulated migration.
The Russian Federation declares its adherence to international standards in the definition of ‘refugee’ and the grounds on which refugee status can be granted. In 1992, Russia joined the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees. Based on these key legal documents, Russia provides refuge to foreign nationals and stateless persons on its territory by granting political asylum, granting temporary asylum, or recognizing refugee status. Article 63 of the Russian Constitution states that ‘[t]he Russian Federation shall grant political asylum to foreign nationals and stateless persons according to the universally recognized norms of international law.’
Legislation on Refugees and Temporary Asylum
In Russia, issues of migration are regulated by federal legislation. Major principles establishing refugee and temporary asylum policies are defined by the national Constitution, and by legislative acts regulating the registration and entry of foreign nationals and stateless persons into the country and granting them refugee status or providing temporary asylum. These include federal laws on
‘ entry into and exit from the Russian Federation,
‘ migration registration of foreign nationals and stateless persons,
‘ refugees,
‘ legal status of foreign citizens, and
‘ citizenship.
Procedural issues are resolved by a set of government resolutions and rules, including a resolution on granting temporary asylum in the territory of the Russian Federation, a resolution on granting temporary asylum to citizens of Ukraine and stateless persons through a simplified procedure, and provisional simplified rules for granting temporary asylum to citizens of Ukraine and stateless persons.
All migration-related policies are implemented by the Federal Migration Service, a government agency operating through its regional bodies in all eighty-five constituent components of the Russian Federation within the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation. Constituent components impact immigration policies mainly by cooperating with federal authorities in defining annual quotas for receipt of migrants and providing assistance to the federal government in running local migrant assistance programs. Commentators note that existing regulations and directives are not comprehensive or systematic, and are not clear in defining the rights of refugees, procedural requirements, and deadlines for the submission of documents. The vagueness and complexity of Russian legislation regarding refugees appears to be one reason for the existence of corruption in the field of refugee acceptance and processing, usually in the form of extorting bribes for processing and releasing refugee documents. Reportedly, local FMS officers request payments in an amount approximately equal to US$1,000 for ‘fast and trouble-free’ document processing.
The increased role of local authorities in implementing migration policies is foreseen by the recently adopted National Concept of Migration Policy, which states that proper legislative regulation must be instituted in order to involve the authorities at all levels, from local to federal, in mitigating ongoing and forthcoming conflicts. Regional attitudes toward participation in federal programs aimed at refugee resettlement differ depending primarily on the economic situation in the region. Because budget appropriations for the FMS do not take into account periodic influxes of refugees, the main impact is borne by the regions, which are often not able to sustain these expenses. As a rule, in order to accept and support a new population, regions establish new taxes on local residents.
Process for Obtaining Refugee Status and Temporary Asylum
A. Refugee Status
The basic method for protecting foreign nationals and stateless persons in the territory of the Russian Federation is to recognize them as refugees. According to Russian legislation, a refugee is
a person who is not a citizen of the Russian Federation and who because of a well-founded fear of becoming a victim of persecution by reason of race, religion, citizenship, national or social identity or political convention is to be found outside the country of his nationality and is unable or unwilling to avail himself of the protection of this country due to such fear, or having lost his or her nationality and staying beyond the country of his or her former place of residence as a result of similar developments, cannot return to it and does no wish to do so because of such fear.
This definition is almost entirely the same definition as that found in the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees.
The Federal Law on Refugees states that a person who has expressed his/her wish to be recognized as a refugee and who has attained eighteen years of age can apply for refugee status either personally or through an authorized representative via the diplomatic mission or the consular office of the Russian Federation in his/her place of residence or outside the state of his/her nationality. Foreign nationals or stateless persons can also apply for recognition as a refugee at a checkpoint on the state border of the Russian Federation. If they are forced to cross the Russian border illegally, potential refugees must apply for a status during the next twenty-four hours after crossing the border at the checkpoint or beyond it. This can be done at the federal executive body in charge of security dealing with the border service, at the regional agency of the federal executive body for internal affairs, or at the regional agency of the federal executive body dealing with the migration service.
According to Russian Federation legislation, applications for refugee status must be filed by all adult applicants and by unaccompanied minors. The ensuing procedure for determining refugee status comprises two stages: the preliminary examination of an application for granting refugee status and the examination of an application on the merits.
During the first stage of the application process, the authorities define whether conditions that constitute the grounds for recognizing a person as a refugee are present or absent. The waiting period for applicants who are outside of Russia is one month from the date the application is received by the diplomatic mission or the consular office. For those who apply for refugee status at a border checkpoint or inside the Russian territory, the process takes up to five business days to complete.
Following the results of the preliminary examination of an application, persons are either issued a certificate stating that their application has been received or a notice of refusal of their application. A certificate serves as the document that identifies the person who is seeking refugee status. After receiving a certificate, applicants must surrender their national (civil) passport and/or other identification documents. These documents are stored in the regional bodies of the FMS in the area where the applicant was assigned housing.
Submission of a refugee status application changes the legal status of a petitioner and entitles him or her to certain rights, such as the right to have an interpreter, receive a one-time lump-sum grant for every family member accompanying the applicant (the amount varies but must be no less than one hundred rubles (approximately US$1.41) per person, receive a place to live in a temporary accommodation center and receive food and medical aid there, and receive vocational training and job placement assistance. Those who have received the certificate are required to undergo a mandatory medical examination. Refusal to undergo medical checks can be a ground for denial of a petitioner’s application.
During the second stage of determining one’s refugee status, a more detailed review of information presented in the application is carried out. A decision on granting refugee status must be made on the basis of interviewing the applicant and verifying the truthfulness of information provided by the given person and his/her family members, reviewing information about the applicant in the possession of Russian authorities, and evaluating the circumstances of the applicant’s arrival in Russia and the grounds for his/her stay in the country. The law does not limit the number of interviews that may be requested of an applicant in order to clarify the facts he/she has provided.
Following the results of the examination of an application, a decision is taken to either grant refugee status and provide the applicant with a refugee certificate that replaces all of his/her former documents, including foreign IDs, and serves as the only identification document recognized by Russian authorities, or to deny the refugee status application.
A refugee certificate is valid throughout the territory of the Russian Federation and gives the refugee the right to stay in the country. Information on minor children of refugees is entered on the certificate of one of the parents. While refugee status is granted for an unspecified period, the Law on Refugees requires persons who have this status to undergo re-registration with the FMS every year and a half.
Persons recognized as refugees, including accompanying family members, are entitled to the following rights:
‘ Information about their rights and responsibilities through translation services if required, including assistance with document processing
‘ A travel allowance and baggage shipment to their assigned place of residence
‘ Protection by the Ministry of Internal Affairs at the place of temporary accommodation to ensure their safety
‘ Food and public utilities in the centers of temporary accommodation
‘ Access to housing paid from a special fund for temporary accommodation
‘ Medical assistance in an amount equal to that received by Russian citizens
‘ Vocational training and job placement assistance
‘ Employment or the opportunity to establish their own business
‘ Social protection and social security
‘ Participation in public activities
B. Temporary Asylum
Apart from granting refugee status, the Russian Federation provides individuals with the possibility of obtaining temporary asylum, which, according to the Law on Refugees, creates the possibility for a foreign national or a stateless person to stay temporarily in Russia. Temporary asylum can be granted for a foreigner whose application for refugee status was denied but who cannot be expelled from the territory of the Russian Federation for humanitarian reasons. However, the Law does not specify what motives or reasons can be regarded as ‘humanitarian.’ Granting temporary asylum for humanitarian reasons falls within the discretion of the decision-making body.
To receive temporary asylum in Russia, a foreign national or a stateless person must file an application with the regional bodies of the FMS. Upon receiving the application, the applicant is issued a certificate indicating that he/she has applied for temporary asylum in the country, which gives him/her the official right to stay in the territory of Russia. The term of consideration of the application is up to three months.
All applicants are subject to fingerprinting conducted simultaneously with the submission of their application, and to a compulsory medical examination. They are required to meet certain health standards in order to be eligible for asylum.
The decision on granting an asylum application is made by the regional bodies of the FMS. If a positive decision is issued, an applicant receives a certificate of temporary asylum in the Russian Federation. This certificate is the main identifying document for the bearer in the territory of Russia, substituting national documents, which are surrendered to local bodies of the FMS.
Temporary asylum is granted for one year; however, it can be renewed annually.
C. Temporary Asylum for Citizens of Ukraine
The conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which has been ongoing since March 1, 2014, has resulted in mass migration from the territory of Ukraine. According to the World Bank, Russia to Ukraine and Ukraine to Russia are the next largest migration corridors in the world, following only the migration corridor from Mexico to the United States. According to the FMS, during the period from April 1, 2014, to September 4, 2015, 1,056,587 citizens of southeast Ukraine arrived and are currently staying in the territory of the Russian Federation.
To regulate the flow of migrants from the territory of Ukraine to Russia, the government adopted the Regulation on Granting Temporary Asylum for Citizens of Ukraine in the Territory of the Russian Federation through Simplified Procedure and Provisional Simplified Rules for Granting Temporary Asylum in the Territory of the Russian Federation for Citizens of Ukraine and Stateless Persons.
According to the rules, an applicant and members of his or her family may apply for temporary asylum at the local office of the FMS or at one of the multifunctional centers of federal and municipal services created for the purpose of handling the recent influx of Ukrainian refugees. Applicants and accompanying family members are fingerprinted when submitting their asylum applications and undergo health checks within ten days after arrival.
The decision on granting temporary asylum is made by the local FMS office where the application was submitted within three days after submission.
According to official statistics, since the beginning of 2014 through September 4, 2015, 6,065 Ukrainian citizens have applied and received refugee status in Russia; 387,150 people received temporary asylum; permissions for temporary residence were issued to 249,324 people; 139,696 individuals participated in the program for voluntary resettlement of compatriots from abroad to the Russian Federation; 119,364 former Ukrainian nationals were naturalized as Russian citizens; and residence permits were given to 56,513 migrants.
Because most of the arriving refugees are unskilled laborers, they are settled in the regions with the ability to absorb such a population that has available jobs in construction, manufacturing, or natural resources exploration. Scholars emphasize the lack of a proper policy to support and utilize refugees effectively and advocate the creation of a national database of specialist skills needs, which would allow for the selection and allocation of refugees based on their skills and experience.

China’s rising economic power has been the base for the increased Chinese presence in the Middle East in recent times. China has able to build ‘productive and deepening relationship’ with most of the Middle East (Kemp, 2010: 64). Most of the Middle East states preference of the Chinese business only approach has been ensuring the China’s growing presence in the region. China has been applying a ‘soft-power’ to secure economic and political advantage in the Middle East. Beijing’s ‘soft-power’ strategy seems to earn more favor than the US ‘hard power’ commitment and ‘its pretension of global power’ (Kemp: 66) in the region. China has built close relation with all Middle East states that recognize ‘one- China’- Taiwan as part of China.
Compare to other states in the Middle East, China has a limited presence in Syria with around 800 citizens. However, Chinese involvement in the Syria crisis is high. China vetoed the UN Security Council Resolution with Russia that might leads to military intervention that exemplify its support to Asad.
Nevertheless, China has been engaged with the opposition. For instance, in late October 2012 China received the representative of the Syrian National Committee for Democratic Change- one of the leading opposition groups- to render what it calls a political resolution to the crisis. Comparatively, China has been playing a proactive role in Syria than in any state touched by the Arab Spring. In Libya, for example, China has voted abstention for the UN Security Council Resolution 1973 that led to NATO led military intervention resulted in regime change. China has lost more than $ 20 billion in Libya. In
addition, China has been in trouble to rebuild its relation with Libya and restore its property. Beijing veto on the issue of Syria has several implications. First, it practically refuted the criticism on Chinese foreign policy that was considered as subordinate to the Western dictate following the Libyan case. Second, China’s veto showed the diplomatic cooperation of China with Russia. Third, Beijing’s position ‘prevented a double intervention as a method to military remove a sovereign government in conflict with democratic opposition supported by the West’ (Sun, 2012: 2).
China has been also active in attempting to mediate the Syrian crisis. Since late 2012 China has been pushing toward a new proposal. The proposal aims to bring a political resolution to the crisis as opposed to a military solution supported by the West. The Chinese proposal ‘calls for a phased truce, the establishment of a transitional authority and an intensified international response to the humanitarian crisis afflicting millions of Syrians’ (Gladstone, 2012: 1). In what looks like a ‘hedging strategy’ China ‘rather than siding with either Assad or the opposition and standing aside to ‘wait and see’, Beijing is actively betting on both’. (Sun: 2)
In the case of either eventualities Asad or the rebels win, China would easily reestablish a close relation. In addition, China strengthens its relation with Russia and checked possible further Western domination of the Middle East. Moreover, China’s proactive role in Syria could be seen as standard changer in Beijing foreign policy orientation in the region. This new proactive China might find itself in collision course with the West often .
China: Bilateral Relations and Refugee Policies across North Korea, Myanmar, and Vietnam
This section will examine bilateral relations and compare Chinese refugee policies across three different cases: North Korea, Myanmar, and Vietnam. The time period under scrutiny is from the establishment of the PRC in 1949 up until the first refugee episode with each of the three bordering states. China is a signatory to the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol, thus is under obligation to follow the stipulated laws. However, there is often a mismatch between the laws stated in the Convention and China’s domestic policies on refugees. While the UNHCR has recognized citizens fleeing from North Korea, Myanmar, and Vietnam as refugees during each incident, China does not recognize refugees from North Korea and Myanmar, but recognizes those from Vietnam. Moreover, there is variation in China’s treatment of each group in terms of the level of assistance China provides.
North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea)
China has followed a consistent policy of repatriation towards North Koreans crossing the border into China. North Korean refugees have been entering China steadily since 1983, with sharp increases during North Korea’s famine in the mid-1990s. Relations between the two countries have often been described as a special one, characterized by historic, cultural and ideological affinity. However, after the nuclear crises in the 2000s, relations between China and North Korea have been evolving to resemble a more pragmatic, state-to-state relationship. All in all, North Korean and Chinese relations fall at the far end of the spectrum, defined with a high level of cooperation, and a corresponding closed-door refugee policy with repatriation.
Historic Overview and Sino-North Korean Relations
China and North Korea have long held a ‘blood-cemented relationship.’ Historically, China has exerted influence in the Korean peninsula, and defended the area against invasions. This is important for two reasons: first, North Korea is geopolitically important for China. With the commencement of the Cold War, and the establishment of the PRC, a Chinese-friendly regime in Korea was paramount to serve as a buffer zone against Western powers and capitalism. During the Korean War, China supported North Korea. Their partnership in this war formed the aforementioned ‘blood-cemented relationship’ between the two states. Through maintaining the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), China could expend fewer military resources to securitize its borders. Secondly, the North Korean and Chinese regimes hold ideological affinity, sharing cultural and revolutionary ties. The traditional school of thinkers in China, as described in Heungkyu Kim’s article, sees the Sino-North Korean relationship as a special, traditional one.
Since then, North Korea and China have upheld friendly relations. When North Korea embarked on its development plans after the Korean War, China’s assistance has been crucial to their success. China contributed 1,200,000 Chinese People’s Volunteers to help with reconstruction. From 1954 to 1957, China provided North Korea with 8 billion yuan worth of loans. All in all, China was vital for North Korea for security, economic and development purposes. In 1961, their bilateral relationship was further cemented through the Sino-North Korean Mutual Aid and Cooperation Friendly Treaty, whereby China agreed to support North Korea in cases of external military attacks. This treaty has been prolonged twice since, and is valid until 2021.
However, during the latter 1960s, broader Sino-Soviet-North Korean relations briefly affected Sino-North Korean relations negatively. Differences between China and the Soviet Union grew increasingly stark, and relations between the two deteriorated rapidly. While North Korea relied on China for support, North Korea also played on the Sino-Soviet relations to gain assistance from the Soviet Union. When North Korea warmed up to the Soviet Union, China retaliated diplomatically for North Korea’s lack of support. In Chinese public media, there were hardly any mentions of North Korea between 1967 and 1969. At the Sino-North Korean border, disputes arose over the contested Paekustan, and the region saw several military skirmishes. Despite the period of diplomatic isolation between China and North Korea during this period, which saw a distinct absence of high-level visits and new cultural and economic agreements, rapprochement between the two states was evident by the end of the 1960s. In 1970, a new communiqu” was signed between the first Premier of China, Zhou Enlai, and North Korean leader Kim Il-sung, pronouncing that the two countries will ‘unite against the common enemy.’
Bilateral relations remained close until the 1990s, when Sino-North Korean relations were rocked by larger changes in the international system. The collapse of the Soviet Union meant that China had find ways to maintain its interests in a unipolar, United States-dominated international system. As such, China began to normalize relations with South Korea, leading to full diplomatic normalization in 1992. In reaction to this, North Korea denounced China publicly. Meanwhile, however, North Korea faced its greatest famine in the mid-1990s. China utilized this opportunity to maintain Chinese influence in North Korea through provision of food and economic assistance. This was especially important for North Korea as it had recently lost a source of support with the fall of the Soviet Union. In the 1990s, China became North Korea’s main patron, supplying nearly three fourths of North Korea’s food imports and 90% of gross imports of energy. This helped guard friendly bilateral relations between the two states, and justify China’s normalization with South Korea.
The North Korean nuclear crises in 2000s tested Sino-North Korean relations, as North Korea’s successful nuclear tests demonstrated a limitation to Chinese influence. While China avoided participation in the 1994 nuclear talks between United States and North Korea, China began to engage in an active role in the 2000s. China adopted a definitive stance to prevent nuclear proliferation in the Korean peninsula and to maintain stability in northeast Asia. It was thought that China could exercise its leverage to dissuade North Korea from pursuing nuclear development, because of China’s role as the major supplier for North Korea’s food and fuel imports. Resultantly, multi-party talks that were set up gave China the role of host and mediator. However, despite China’s involvement, North Korea carried out two successful nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, revealing the limitation of Chinese influence on the North Korean regime. Following these incidences, current literature describes an evolution of Sino-North Korean relations from the traditional ‘blood-cemented’ one, to a more state-to-state relationship. In this sense, Chinese policy on North Korean refugees may alter according to this shift.
Refugee Treatment
China has followed a consistent policy towards North Korean refugees, whereby China refuses to recognize incomers as ‘refugees.’ The policy has been consistent, because the momentary lows in bilateral relations in mid-1960s and in early 1990s have been insufficient to cause a change in China’s refugee policies. In the 1960s, North Korean refugees entering China has not become a significant issue yet, as China has stated that North Korean refugees have not been entering China until 1983. When relations became strained again in the 1990s, China was still attempting to maintain cooperative relations with North Korea, as exemplified with China’s assistance to the North Korean famine. This cooperation helped redress their differences and upheld good relations.
China claims that North Korean border crossers are ‘economic migrants’ and uses this definition to justify repatriation, as surveys conducted at borders show that 95% of incomers left for economic reasons. However, as economic circumstances are intrinsically tied to political characteristics of the regime, North Koreans fleeing their home country fall under the definition of refugees sur place. There is a distinct caste system in North Korea, in which social classes are determined at birth, and mobility between social categories is next to impossible. Furthermore, there are definite political consequences to repatriation. Refugees who are returned to North Korea after being caught are sent to labour camps, and branded as ‘traitors’ to the regime. Punishment and exile extend to family members of the refugee. This renders North Koreans who fled North Korea as refugees sur place, persons who become entitled to protection as refugees due to the risk of political persecution lest they return. Therefore, such well-founded fears of political persecution designate North Koreans who cross the Sino-North Korean border as refugees under the UN Convention.
North Koreans have been entering China through the northeastern provinces of Jilin, Heilongjiang, and Liaoning provinces, and the two countries have taken measures to tighten border security. In the early 1960s, China and North Korea signed a secret agreement to govern security in the border area. However, since 1983, there has been a steady increase of refugee inflows. In 1986 border security was further consolidated in another agreement in which North Korea called for return of its citizens and laid out specific security protocols. In 2006 construction of a 20-km long fence was completed along the border at Yalu River.
During the worst years of famine in North Korea in the mid-1990s there were estimated 20,000 ‘ 30,000 refugees who entered the PRC. Some sources even claim that numbers ranged as high as 300,000. Accurate figures are often difficult to obtain because no refugee organizations are officially permitted to operate at the border area, and North Korean refugees are often dispersed and under cover to avoid repatriation. During this time, some sources claim that China has privately permitted South Korean humanitarian and missionary groups to operate in the border area and provide assistance.
From July 1998 onwards, China has actively enforced its policy of repatriation. China held major roundup operations in northeastern provinces, and arrested around 100 North Korean refugees weekly. These searches were often launched after incidences relating to North Korean refugees were reported in major news media. While this deters other North Koreans from entering China, it demonstrates as well China’s concern in maintaining cooperative relations with North Korea publicly. A Human Rights Watch report has also stated that since 1999 China has tightened its surveillance of South Korean humanitarian and missionary groups operating in border areas. In the Yanbian Korean Self-Governing District of Jilin Province, six detention camps have been set up for refugee deportation in recent years as refugees in the area has exceeded 93,000. A document from the Border Patrol Bureau stated that as of the end of 2004, 133,009 North Koreans have been deported back to North Korea. To date, China has upheld its policy of repatriation.
Myanmar (Republic of the Union of Myanmar)
Compared to the case of North Korea, China’s policy towards Burmese refugees is slightly more accommodating, as China provides temporary assistance at the border. From 1949 onwards, Sino-Burmese relations were marked with suspicions and mutual distrust. Only up until the 1970s and 80s did bilateral relations improve. Regardless, the Burmese government continually attempts to reduce its dependence on China and remain neutral in its foreign policy by balancing China and developing ties with the West. As a result of this unsteady bilateral relationship, China’s policy towards Burmese refugees has rested in the middle of the spectrum between accommodation and refusal. In the two incidences in 2009 and 2012 as illustrated below, China provided Burmese refugees temporary relief, while at the same time refusing to recognize them as ‘refugees.’

The European Union like the US has already imposed several sanctions against Asad. These sanctions include Asset freezes and travel bans on top members of the Syrian military and government (including Assad and his family), an arms embargo, Sanction on the Syrian central bank, and bans on the import of Syrian oil and the export of equipment for the petro industry. These clearly show the European Union position as the pro-rebel.
European Union (EU) fears the flood of refugee from the east because of the crisis in Syria. Particularly, France the former colonial power has a higher stake in Syria due to the existence of large Syrian community in France. The EU position and understanding of the crisis is more or less similar with the US. Under NATO the Netherlands and German troops have been taking the responsibility to plant and monitor Patriot missile near Turkish- Syrian border. The EU states that have a permanent seat at UN Security Council have demonstrated a similar position like the US. In October 2011, Europe drafted a resolution planned to condemn Syria. However, Russia and China vetoed the resolution drafted by Europe. Similarly, on February 4, 2012, ‘Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution backing an Arab-West peace plan that called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down’ (Swaine, 2012: 13).
The EU has been asking Asad to resign. Hence, the Asad regime sees EU as a bias entity incapable of mediating the conflict. Although the EU appears to render various assistances to the opposition it remains suspicious of the bulk of the opposition. The EU has been also portraying itself as strong supporter of the Annan plan that includes ‘work with the international envoy, end violence by all parties under UN ceasefire; Syrian army to stop using heavy weapons and withdraw from population centers, allow humanitarian aid, free detainees, ensure freedom of movement for journalists, respect peaceful demonstrations’ (Master, 2012). However, the UN plan has no demand for Asad’s resignation. Hence, the EU’s role in the Syrian crisis could be characterized as contradictory that has a limited impact on securing peace in Syria or mitigating the refugee flow to Europe.
Legal framework: International and regional instruments
There are two strands of international law providing for international protection: international refugee law and international human rights law, in accordance with which EU asylum law must be designed and implemented pursuant to Article 78 TFEU. The role of UNHCR as the guardian of the 1951 Convention and other instruments of refugee protection is highlighted in this context. This international framework is complemented with regional instruments. The most important are the European Convention on Human Rights, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, the African Convention on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the African Convention on Refugees, and the American Convention on Human Rights.
Main challenges: Jurisdiction, responsibility and access to asylum
Against this background, the main challenge currently facing international protection systems is the definition and effects of the concept of jurisdiction, as it constitutes the trigger of State responsibility. This problem plays out in a variety of areas and ways: 1. States are reluctant to accept responsibility for providing international protection when they engage in extraterritorial action. Mechanisms for border and migration control denying jurisdiction have multiplied in recent decades, from simply acting on the high seas outside national territorial waters, to concluding agreements with other countries placing responsibility on them for the care and protection of asylum seekers. 2. In the EU, the ‘integrated border management’ system together with the Global Approach to Migration constitutes the main strategies through which migratory flows are administered. However, while controls are implemented inland as well as abroad, there has been no full recognition of the extraterritorial applicability of the rights of refugees and migrants. These measures obstruct access to international protection and entail a high risk of refoulement. The emergence of new categories of displaced persons poses a challenge to international protection systems and access to asylum by those concerned. The specific problems of ‘climate refugees’ have so far been addressed by the international community in piecemeal fashion. There is, however, a need for a comprehensive response, looking at the central elements of the problem and how it intersects with international protection obligations generally. Concerted action at global level in this and related areas may be obstructed by the lack of a harmonious approach to refugee protection. In particular, there are states without refugee laws or which have not ratified any international instruments regarding international protection. Cooperation with these states should be avoided until they fully comply with international standards. As this includes most of the States on the southern shores of the Mediterranean, the point is of particular relevance for the EU, intersecting with the issues of jurisdiction and responsibility. In all these different contexts, Member States may need to accept that asylum within the EU is the only viable option if international obligations are to be upheld.
Best practices: The gap between UNCHR guidelines and EU standards
There are problems with the standards promoted by the UNHCR and the current state of the EU counterparts. The source of specific problems are in the gap between the UNHCR guidelines on ‘accelerated procedures’ and ‘safe third countries’, and the EU standards in the procedures directive as these mechanisms translate the control rationale underlying the border and migration policies to the realm of asylum with the potential to frustrate its protection objective. In this regard there is insufficient EU attention to UNHCR recommendations. The internal and external dimension of asylum: Consistency issues A close review of EU policy in the area of asylum and the coherence between its internal and external policies reveals that the main objective of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) is to guarantee a minimum level of international protection in all Member States. On the other hand, there is a very prominent focus on the prevention of abuse and irregular movements of refugees and no legal route of entry for asylum purposes in the EU. As a result, while the CEAS pursues an overall protection goal, the system is rendered inaccessible to its addressees, either through indiscriminate border and migration controls deployed extraterritorially that block prospective beneficiaries en route or through the operation of procedural devices, such as the ‘safe third country’ notion, that push responsibility away from the Member States. This is the context in which The Hague Programme launched ‘the external dimension of asylum’, with a view to alleviate the problem of access to international protection. Against this background the Joint Resettlement Programme, Regional Protection Programmes and offshore processing plans all focus on the actions to move asylum obligations elsewhere. Our conclusion is that, because these mechanisms draw heavily on border and migration control preoccupations, their results have been unsatisfactory so far. The underlying inconsistencies between the EU’s internal and external action, generally, and between the internal and external dimension of asylum policy, in particular, become apparent.
The way forward:
In respect of both the problems of climate change related flight and the situation of people in need of international protection coming to the EU through countries without asylum laws, there is one common obligation: EU states need to accept that international protection within the EU will, in almost all cases, be the only reasonable option consistent with the international obligations of the Member States. The temptation to seek to displace the duty to provide international protection within the EU by entering into agreements with other countries either to readmit such persons or to take them in the context of resettlement should be resisted. The reasons for this are simple. The first is that sending people in need of international protection to third countries which do not have asylum laws in the context of readmission agreements will breach the Member States international human rights obligations. The second is that as a wealthy and secure part of the world, housing a small minority of the world’s displaced persons, it will be difficult to convince the international community that other states should accept responsibility for a number of those who have already engaged the EU’s protection obligations. Moreover, it is unlikely that third states willing to take displaced persons in the context of resettlement programmes will consider that those people who have managed to reach the EU are in particularly difficult circumstances. Instead, countries with generous resettlement programmes tend to focus on providing assistance to those closest to the geographical area of the problems which have caused the flight and those who are, accordingly, most vulnerable. It is not unreasonable to expect the EU Member States, with all the resources and capacities at their disposal, to provide international protection to those in need who fall squarely within the scope of those to whom the EU Member States owe protection under international law.

The core Middle East states are highly divided on the Syrian crisis. The increased sectarian angle of the conflict has been also widening the political gap among major players in the region. The main cause of the rivalry seems on supporting the revolt or supporting the regime. Prominent regional players like Saudi Arabia and Turkey with other states like Qatar, and Jordan are supporting the rebels. However, Iran has remained loyal and steadfast to the Asad regime. Lebanon seems divided. This is due to the nature of Lebanese political landscape. This section focuses on the prominent faultiness as well as alliance formation between Syria and selected regional actors .
Lebanon, before the French mandate, was part of Syria. It was established as a separate political entity in September 1920. The creation of Lebanon was mainly related to satisfying France- the colonial power than the interest of the local inhabitants of the region. The French colonial administration divided Syria to weaken it. According to Fawwaz Traboulsi, France ‘justified its claims to Syria by the necessary defense of Christians, Durze, and ‘Alawi’ and Shi’a minorities’ (2007: 76). In early 1920s, under the French administration Syria was divided into five autonomous entities. These are Greater Lebanon, Aleppo, Damascus, the Alawi state, and al Durze .
Although Lebanon secured its independence from France in 1943 it has been often ‘unable to isolate itself from other conflicts in the stormy Middle East’ (Malaspina, 2009: 8). Since the onset the Lebanese government was established along the so-called ‘Confessional System’. Confessional System renders political authority along religious lines. In accordance to this, in Lebanon the presidency is to the Christian (Maronite Catholic), the premiership is to the Muslim (Sunni), the spokes-man from Shi’a.
Likewise, the parliament seats are also distributed along religious lines among the Christians, Durze, and Muslims (Malaspina: 12-14). This makes Lebanon ‘the most politically complex and religiously divided state’ in the region (Ibid: 8). More often than not, whenever there is a problem in the region tension rise in Lebanon because of probable spillover effect . Particularly, if the country is Syria the probability of spillover effect mounts due to several similarities the two states share. First, still the Syrian regime has been highly involved in the Lebanese politics. This has been evident in the presence of rival pro and anti- Syrian regime political groups in Lebanon. Syria had significant troop presence in Lebanon from 1976 to 2005. The yet unresolved Rafik Hariri’s, former Lebanese primer, assassination in 2005 and the subsequent international pressure forced Syria to evacuate its troops from Lebanon. Second, all the different confessional groups of Lebanon share a considerable relation with their co-religious groups in Syria. Third, there has been a strong economic relation between the two states. Furthermore, Youssef Chaitani explained eloquently the close and complex relation the two states share accordingly: ‘Of the entire Arab world’s political relationships, none displays such a tormented combination of attraction and repulsion, of love and hate, as that between Syria and Lebanon. Although indispensable to each other, they have often found coexistence onerous and troublesome. They cannot live together, yet they cannot live apart. They seem forever trapped in a repetitive cycle of conflict and reconciliation.’ (Chaitani, 2007: ix) Geopolitically, Lebanon is crucial for Syria because of its proximity to Damascus. In addition, Syria perhaps could use Lebanese ports in case of any eventuality. The present Lebanese government, which has been highly dominated by pro-Syria groups, has been playing carefully not to disturb the delicate balance. However, there were some military activities along Syria ‘ Lebanon border since the popular uprising turned violent in Syria. The sectarian dimension of the Syrian crisis has been particularly a threat to Lebanon’s stability. The result of spillover was already manifesting in Beirut, Tripoli, and Sidon. In these cities there was military skirmish between Sunni anti-Asad groups and Shi’a pro-Asad groups. As Salem (2012: 4) stated ‘the evolution and outcome of the conflict in Syria will have a great impact on the Lebanese state, Hezebollah, and other political actors’ .
Even if, the stake has been high for Lebanon, so far there was no single Lebanese foreign policy strategy on the Syrian crisis. This has been true because of the often contending groups in Lebanon pursue divergent goals. For instance, on one hand the anti-Asad camp in Lebanon that has been largely made of Sunni political groups under the March 14 coalition would like to see the end of Asad. They were for long accusing the Asad regime supporting Hezbollah (Shi’a group), which is now the most powerful player in Lebanese politics. The Sunni’s resent the Shi’a domination of Lebanon and they see the fall of Asad as a first and necessary step to weaken Hezbollah . Therefore, they would like to assist the Syrian opposition that has been largely made up of Sunnis. On the other hand, the pro-Asad camp under Hezbollah and the March 4 coalition would like to support the Syrian regime and prevent the coming to power of anti-Asad group to power. So far, there has been no major security collapse in Lebanon. The weak nature of the Lebanese state, however, makes it challenging to intervene or mitigate the tension between the two camps.
The Lebanese state can be characterized as a ‘soft state’ because of the weak nature of the central government. The present Lebanese government is unpopular among the Arab states, the US and European Union. These same states have been anti-Asad and now most of them have been openly arming the rebels in Syria. Mikati’s, Lebanese prime minister, so far is following the policy of disassociation. Hezbollah the most powerful group in Lebanon and Syria’s strategic partner has been also remain largely an involved. However, many expect increased Hezbollah involvement in Syria if the conflict dragged for long and more likely if Assad starts to lose vital cities like Aleppo and Damascus. The assassination of the Lebanese Internal Security chief General Wissam al-Hassan in October 2012 following the unsuccessful
assassination attempt on top March 14 political figures shows a dangers trend of spillover. Much worse, the Lebanese national army has been considered by many as partial and both sides accuse the not so quite strong Lebanese troops. The increasing refugee flow from Syria is also a major secure concern for Lebanon. So far, sources indicate limited level of politicization of Syrian refugees .
Lebanon and International Refugee Law:
Many Arabic-speaking countries in recent years have experienced a significant influx of refugees from within the Arab world and Africa. In response, Arab legal experts have held two regional meetings to explore solutions and develop mechanisms to help host Arab countries deal with this problem. These regional meetings resulted in two main documents being adopted: (1) the Declaration on the Protection of Refugees and Displaced Persons in the Arab World, which was adopted in November 1992; and (2) the Arab Convention on Regulating the Status of Refugees in the Arab Countries, adopted by the League of Arab States in 1994.
In addition to such regional initiatives, some Arab countries signed but did not ratify the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (Refugee Convention) and its 1967 Protocol (although Egypt, as discussed below, has ratified them with reservations). These instruments are the main international legal tools for protecting refugees.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan host the largest numbers of refugees among the Arab states.
This report provides a general overview of the legal measures adopted by these four countries to regulate the status of refugees and the types of benefits they offer to refugees.
According to a report issued by the UN Refugee Agency, Egypt hosts Syrian, Sudanese, Ethiopian, Somali, Eritrean, Palestinian, and Iraqi refugees.
In July 1951, Egypt signed the Refugee Convention. In May 1981, it ratified the Convention and its 1967 Protocol, but made reservations to five provisions, namely article 12(1) (personal status), article 20 (rationing), article 22(1) (access to primary education), article 23 (public relief and assistance), and article 24 (labor legislation and social security).
While Egypt made a reservation to article 22, section 1 of the Convention, denying refugees the right to be admitted to public schools, the Egyptian Minister of Education issued Ministerial Decree No. 24 in 1992, allowing the children of recognized refugees from Sudan and the children of Sudanese, Libyan, and Jordanian political asylum seekers to attend public schools. Refugees are provided with a UNHCR blue refugee card, which is stamped by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Interior (the Refugee Affairs section in the Ministry’s Department of Migration and Citizenship). A renewable residence permit, with duration of six months, is also provided with the refugee card. According to Decree No. 8180 of 1996, issued by the Ministry of Interior, refugees generally receive a three-year temporary residency permit. Palestinian refugees may receive a longer residency permit, depending on when they arrived. Palestinian refugees who arrived in 1948 receive residency permits that are renewable every five years, but Palestinians who arrived in 1956 receive residency permits that are renewable every three years.
Egypt did not make a reservation against articles 17 and 18 of the Refugee Convention, which protect refugees’ rights to employment. However, Egyptian work permits are difficult to obtain. Article 11 of Ministerial Resolution 390 of 1982, issued by the Ministry of Labor, requires proof on the part of the employer that no Egyptian national is available to do the work before a permit may be issued.
The Egyptian authorities have adopted a number of domestic legislative initiatives to regulate the legal status of refugees and asylum seekers:
‘ In May 1984, a presidential decree established a permanent committee in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to review asylum applications and grant refugee status.
‘ Presidential Decree 331 of 1980 adopted the Refugee Convention as domestic law.
‘ The suspended Egyptian Constitution of 2012 provides protection to refugees and asylum seekers; for instance, article 57 prohibits the extradition of political refugees.
‘ Law 124 of 1958 prevents foreigners from owning agricultural land in Egyptian territory, for security reasons. However, Law 15 of 1963 considers Palestinian refugees to be an exception.
‘ Law 104 of 1985 prevents foreign persons and companies from owning agricultural property, fertile land, or desert land in Egypt.
‘ Law 154 of 2004, amending Law 26 of 1975 on nationality, prohibits the children of foreigners who are born on Egyptian soil from acquiring citizenship, as Egyptian nationality is granted only on the basis of descent.
Iran is geopolitically as well as economically a vital state. Geopolitically, it intersects Central Asia, South West Asia, South Asia, and the Persian Gulf. Economically, Iran is an energy power house. It has the world’s second largest gas reserve and the third largest oil reserve. Iran is a multi-ethnic state where the Persians account for 51 percent of the population. It is predominantly Shi’a state. The 1979 Islamic Revolution of Iran changed the pre-revolution Iranian priorities and alliance formation. Iran in the post revolution era has been largely at odd with most Western states and the Arab world with the exception of Syria. Broadly, Iran’s foreign policy has been based on the ‘negative balance doctrine’that reflects the [country’s] perceptions and historical fears’ (Ehteshami and Hinnebusch, 1997: 28) .
The Syria- Iran alliance has been one of the few enduring alliances in the Middle East that date back to the late 1970s. The 1979 Islamic revolutionary in Iran was a turning point in the Syria- Iran relations. The Iranian Islamic Revolution established the Islamic Republic of Iran and it released a shock wave across the region. Since the Islamic revolution, Iran believes ‘outside, ‘Satanic Powers’ ‘ have been trying to
defeat Iran’s unique Islamic revolution’ (Ehteshami and Hinnebusch: 28). Henceforth, the Islamic Republic disentangled Iran’s relation with the West and much of the Arab world. In addition, aims to spread its version of Islamic revolution across the region. This created a fear across the Arab world making Iran more isolated. Today many Arab states suspect Iran and have poor relation with it. The exception of course is Syria. Ironically, there has been vast ideological gap between the governments of Damascus and Tehran. The Baath party of Syria is a secular, socialist, and Arab nationalist party that sees itself as the champion of Arab nationalism. On the contrary, the Iranian regime is ‘a revolutionary, pan- Islamic theocracy’ that advocates Islamic universalism’ (Goodarzi, 2006: 2). This means the alliance has not been founded on ideology; rather it has been based on largely on defensive strategy .
They set up the alliance in order to overcome their common impediments in the 1980s from Iraq, Israel, and the US. The Syria-Iran alliance was established for mainly defensive causes in a ‘response to the acts of aggression orchestrated by Iraq (1980 [- against Iran]) and Israel (1982- [against Syria in Lebanon]), in both cases with the prior knowledge and tacit support of the USA’ (Goodarzi: 3). There shared hostility toward Iraq was seem to mark the first step to the alliance. However, beyond this, the Syrian regional ambition and Iran’s post-Shah foreign policy directions appear to play a role in the consolidation of the alliance .
Iran since the Islamic Revolution appears geopolitically isolated. Indeed, the post-9/11 US aggressive foreign policy helped Iran to see the demise of its major rivals and threats in the region- Taliban of Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein of Iraq. However, the heavy US military presence that replaced the
previous threats have continued to pose immense geopolitical and security threat to Iran. In addition, the Islamic Republic of Iran has a shaky relation with nuclear armed Pakistan. Moreover, Israel remains a major security threat to Iran since the revolution. Furthermore, Iran’s relation with Saudi Arabia is filled with suspicion. Saudi and the small Gulf Sunni monarchies often accuse Iran of supporting radical Shi’a groups in the region. (Fair, 2004: 2-5) On top of these, Iran’s continued support for the regime in Syria is risking Turkey- Iranian relations. At the beginning of the Syrian uprising Iran and Turkey seem on a similar continuum. However, as the conflict in Syria drags on the approach the two states are taking has been widening. Turkey is looking a regime change; however, Iran would seem to prefer maintaining the status quo. The amalgamation of all these clearly show how much Iran is an isolated state. This means the Syrian regime is the only state actor that has built a sustainable and harmonious relation with the Islamic Republic of Iran .
All these rises Iran’s geopolitical and security stake in Syria higher. Syria has been Iran’s gateway to the wider Arab public. If the Asad’s regime is replaced there would be a greater probability that the new Syria might sever Iran- Syria ties, which makes Iran further isolated. To avert such development Iran has been active in several fronts since the Syrian uprising started in March 2011. These include helping the regime with militarily hard ware across Iraq as well as attempting to broker a negotiated settlement between the rebels and the regime .
Saudi Arabia and Syria share a strong and long historical, social, economic, political, cultural, and ideological relation that shape the two states present complex relations. Geopolitically, Syria has been always important for Saudi Arabia. Syria was regarded as the ‘key state to dominate the Arab Middle East’ (Sunayama, 2007: 5). The Syria- Saudi relation is characterized as complex filled with collaboration, rapprochement, and conflict. In late 1940s Saudi was striving to hinder the Hashemite (Iraq and Jordan) domination of Syria. In early 1950s the Cairo- Damascus- Riyadh alliance was one of the strong alliances in the Middle East. According to Sonoko Sunayama, ‘Syria’s has primary value to Saudi Arabia is [that] rested on its ability to counter-balance Iraq or to restrain Iran’ (2007: 4).
In the 1960s with the coming to power of the Baath party in Syria relations between Saudi and Syria has begun to sour. Ideological drift was the first to intervene between the two states. The Syrian Baath party is nationalist and socialist, whereas the Saudi monarchy remains steadfast to their Islamic theocratic establishment. Their divergent global alignment in the Cold War bipolar system was also a barrier to enhance the Saudi- Syrian relations. Saudi continued its strong ties with the capitalist world particularly with the US and it strongly opposed to the USSR anti-religious stance and its invasion of Afghanistan. On the contrary, Syria disdain Saudi’s strong ties with the imperialist powers. Despite such tensions Syria remained Saudi’s major economic beneficiary .
Notwithstanding all their differences, Syria and Saudi maintain a low profile relation that continues up to the late 1970s. In early 1970s Syria becomes more assertive in its foreign policy. The 1978 Camp David Accord was one of the turning points in changing the Syrian perspective not only with Saudi but also with the entire Arab world. This Syrian position is amplified with its increasing inclination toward Iran since. Syria has been the only Arab states that supported Iran in the bloody Iraq- Iran War. This was against the interest of Saudi Arabia that tries to contain Iran and its version of Islamic revolution. Since the 1980s, Saudi’s foreign policy, regard to Syria, was directed toward breaking Iran- Syrian ties. In the 1990s there was, relatively, closer cooperation between Saudi and Syria. They both supported the US in the first Gulf War. In addition, Syria was involved in the peace process with Israel that shows a sign of strengthening Syria, Saudi, and the US relations. This period also witnessed the revival of the Damascus- Riyadh- Cairo axis. The Syria- Saudi Arabia relations culminated in Syria becoming a member of the GCC in what is called the ‘6 + 2′ formula that was formulated at the Damascus Declaration in 1991. In 2000, there was a plan to establish a free trade zone between Saudi and Syria. (Sunayama, 222)
Nevertheless, the post 9/11 US aggressive foreign policy toward Syria and the subsequent US invasion of Iraq has casted a shadow on Saudi-Syria relations. The assassination of Lebanon’s pro-Saudi prime minister in 2005 was also another factor that strained the relation between Syria and Saudi. According to Wehrey and Karasik, Saudi’s major strategic objective in Lebanon was to ”clip Iran’s wings’ by isolating Syria, primarily through the Hariri [the assassinated Lebanese premier] tribunal’. Saudi Arabia often accuses of Syria as a ‘facilitator of Iran’s policies in the region and has allowed Iran to interfere in the Lebanon and Israeli-Palestine issues’.
Despite their differences Saudi and Syria kept their relationship going up until March 2011- the Syrian uprising. However, after the uprising Saudi Arabia has become ‘the most vocal regional actors in expressing its opposition to Asad and his regime as well as in advocating recognition and supporting and arming of the anti-Asad opposition’ (Berti and Guzanasky, 2012: 2). Saudi Arabia is at the forefront of ‘funnel[ing] money and weapons to armed groups battling to overthrow Bashar’ (Mueller and Rabi,2012: 3). Saudi also voiced its opposition against the killing of largely Sunni protestors by Alawite- Nusayri regime forces. Moreover, Saudi perceives the Syrian uprising as an opportunity to break Iran- Syrian ties. In turn, this could help consolidating the Sunni dominance in the region at large. The rising dominance of Shi’a power in the region, particularly in Iraq and Lebanon, has been a constant concern for Riyadh. Thus, getting rid of Asad seems a necessary step toward checking Iran’s stretches in the region.
The presence of such religious dimension i.e. Sunni/Shi’a at the regional level appears to contribute for the increasing sectarian dimension of the Syrian conflict. There are large numbers of Islamic (Sunni) groups fighting the Asad regime that have been receiving different kind of assistance from the Gulf States including Saudi Arabia. However, these groups have not been organized and often there was rivalry among these groups. Although it is easy to divide the Sunni fighting groups in Syria into Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi groups there has been a marked difference and competition among the several self-claimed Salafi groups fighting against Asad. This practically threatens a rampant security crisis even in the eventuality of post-Asad Syria.
In sum, Saudi Arabia has been working together to unify the opposition with regional actors like Qatar and Turkey. The Kingdom’s position of regime change goes with its traditional allay the US and the EU states. Since the start of the Arab Spring (Uprising), regionally Saudi has been active in perusing to maintain the statuesque in most of the Arab world, except in Libya and Syria. In Bahrain, Saudi involved militarily to squash a popular uprising alleging the Iranian indirect involvement. In the eventuality of Asad remaining in power Saudi might find it difficult to repair its relation with Syria. In addition, it might also harm its regional credibility in the eyes of the Arab public as a defender of Islam. However, if Asad destined to go Saudi might revive its primacy in the Arab world at large. Noteworthy, if the Syrian crisis is going to be solved through a negotiated settlement the Saudi role remains paramount.

In the absence of any statutory framework, India relies on Foreigner Act 1946 to govern the entry, stay and exist of foreigners in India. Since the matter (entry and regulation of aliens) falls under the union list the central government is empowered to govern the refugee . Section 2(a) of this act defines a foreigner as a person who is not a citizen of India. Therefore all refugees come under the category of foreigner. Sec 3 empowers the Central Government to issue orders in order to control foreigners in their activities, movement and issue of identity proof and regular appearance before police. Section 5 prevents foreigner to change their name while in India. Section7 obliges the hotel keepers to maintain records of the stay of foreigners. Foreigners Act 1946 has given wide power to executive to remove foreigners from India . It is in addition to the power to refuse entry of foreigners for non fulfillment of entry conditions that invites instant deportation. But by the request of National Human Right Commission many changes have been brought by amending the Foreigners Act 1946 which is now a current law for refugees and asylum seekers. The lacuna in this Act is that it does not contain the term refugee and in Indian law foreigner means aliens temporarily or permanently residing in the territory. The Registration of Foreigner’s Act 1939, Foreigner’s Act 1946, and Foreigner’s Order 1948 are the legislations dealing with the treatment of foreigners in India .
1. Foreigners are entitled to limited constitutional protection. These include protection of the equality under Article 14 of the Indian Constitution and protection of life and liberty under Article 21 of Indian Constitution. They are also entitled to the protection of right recognized under article 20, 22, 25, 28, 32. All these articles are applicable both for citizens and non citizens.
2. Article 14 guarantees equality before law and equal protection of law. The executive distinguishes foreigners according to their needs and deal with them differently based on intelligible differentia having the nexus with the object.
3. Article 21 deals with the protection of life and personal liberty. The Supreme Court’ has reinterpreted Article 21 to include a substantive due process law which is followed against the state action.
4. Article 20 deals with Ex post facto law, right against double jeopardy and right’ against self incrimination.
5. Article 22 deals with right against arrest and detention.
6. Article 25-28 deals with right to freedom of conscience and free practice and’ propagation of religion.
7. Article 32 grants the right to move to the Supreme Court for enforcement of these above fundamental rights.
8. Article 51(c) of the Indian Constitution provides that the state shall Endeavour to foster respect for international law and treaty obligations in the dealings of organized peoples with one another.
9. Article 253 of the Constitution gives the Indian Parliament the power to make any law for the whole or any part of the territory of India for implementing any treaty, agreement or convention with any other country or any decision made at any international conference, association or body. In Visakha V. State of Rajasthan, Supreme Court has ruled in favor of harmonious construction of international law and domestic law when it is consistent with fundamental rights. As in this case there was no legislation pertaining to prevention of sexual harassment, Supreme Court relies on the objective of CEDAW and laid down a guide line for preventing sexual harassment. It shows that in case of deficiency of domestic law regarding any matter, Indian Courts are empowered to interpret any hard cases in the light of international convention or treaty.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) plays an important role in refugee protection throughout the world. In India UNHCR is very active and assist the refugee in getting refugee status and ensures that when they go to their home state, their repatriation is voluntary. A refugee who does not get direct assistance from Indian government is free to apply to the UNHCR for asylum claims and other assistance. UNHCR is mandated by its parent statute to conduct refugee status determination tests and issue certificates to those who fulfill the criteria of Refugee Convention. UNHCR works throughout the region of South Asian countries to raise the awareness of refugee issue and encourage all nations to give protection to refugees . It is instrumental in organizing regional consultation on the problem of refugees. The recent consultation was held in Dhaka in November 1997 to adopt Model National Law on refugees in whom India participated.
Human rights are the basic rights granted to each individual equally without any distinction. It is considered as a universally recognized standard of behaviors. The violation of these standards by the state gives rise to a situation that creates refugees. Refugees by definition are the victims of human right violation. India is not a signatory to 1951 convention relating to the status of refugee or 1967 protocol but India has signed a number of international human right conventions which obliges India towards protection of refugees based on humanitarian grounds . These include UN Declaration on Territorial Asylum 1967, Universal Declaration of Human Right 1948(Art.14 ), International Convention on Civil and Political right(Art.13ofICCPR) , Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDW), International Convention on Economic Social and Cultural Rights 1966, Convention against Torture and Cruel Inhuman or degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT).
The human right instruments are important players for safeguarding the rights of refugee in India. India is not a party to any international refugee instruments and has not adopted any national refugee law for the refugee protection. In India National Human Right Commission has taken a positive step towards expanding the legal protection of refugee in Indian territories In India, Protection of Human Rights Act 1933 has established National Human Right Commission and has empowered it with enormous power and functions. At the state level, the Act provides the establishment of Human Right Courts to provide speedy trial and justice arising out of human right violation. In order to prevent refugee flow, UN and others especially the NGOs are also providing assistance to member states to minimize the flow of refugee by way of their regional human right instruments. In 1996, the Supreme Court in National Human Right Commission V. State of Arunachal Pradesh intervened with the liberal interpretation of law to suggest that refugees are the class apart from foreigners and they are to be protected under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The court emphasized that the country is governed by the rule of law and the state is under an obligation to protect the life and personal liberty of every human being be he is a citizen or not and no one can threat any refugee to leave India. This is a land mark decision with regard to refugee protection instead of no specific legislation relating to refugees.
In India adopting model national legislation is the first step towards refugee protection. Judiciary and human right instruments are the only source to protect refugees which depend upon case to case but the difficulties arises when there is mass influx of refugees coming from different states. It is therefore highly essential to draft legislation on refugees so that there will be a uniform legal framework to recognize the rights of refugees. The domestic NGOs and UNHCR are complimentary to each other. The only act of UNHCR is to recognize refugees within its mandate. In a situation where Government of India denies access to UNHCR and other foreign humanitarian agencies, domestic NGOs play the most crucial role to provide “protection” to the refugees. By enacting domestic law, refugee can be distinguished from IDPs and can acquire specific protection. India is therefore not required to sign 1951 Convention as protection is already been given by Indian Constitution and judiciary. Now it is high time to think for a specific legislation on refugees which can entertain the future upcoming refugees in India without any human right violations.
India shares historic ties with the Arab and Islamic world that cut across the spheres of culture, economy and politics. Post India’s tryst with freedom, the linkage between India and the Arab world strengthened further due to the ideology of non-alignment. As the larger powers of the world engaged in the Cold War, the weaker Arab nations sought to come out of the sinister shadow by accepting the India led doctrine of non-alignment. India is also viewed as a responsible and reliable ally because of her continued support for the Palestine cause and commitment to peace, sovereignty and democracy. Syria specifically appreciates India’s support for the retrieval of the Golan Heights which was seized and annexed by Israel. It continues to remain under Israeli occupation despite UN resolutions calling for it to be handed back to Syria; this continues to be a central issue of the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict. Syria also supports India’s stand on Iran and a permanent membership in the reformed UNSC .
The traditional relations aside, India adopted a specific Look West policy in 2005 for deepening her engagement with the West Asian neighbors; an Endeavour that has been well accepted in recognition of India’s potential as an emerging political and economic power in Asia and the world. Described variously as our ‘extended and ‘proximate neighborhood in the diplomatic circles, the region is important for obvious strategic reasons in the fields of energy, trade, business, politics and security. As the world’s fourth largest energy consuming country, India needs to secure long term energy supply for the populace. Consequently significant bilateral agreements and free trade agreements (FTAs) have been inked, that has helped define India’s priorities and long term interests in the region. The present policy focus lies very much on the Indian Ocean Region in terms of ensuring mutually beneficial relations with littoral states, accessibility of oil and gas resources, the freedom of navigation through the Gulf and the Straits of Hormuz, and access to regional markets for Indian goods, technology, investment, labour and services. India is also stepping up her engagement with organizations like the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Arab League in a bid to develop warmer relations. In fact India’s foreign policy is presently geared towards joining the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) as a permanent member with the Gulf countries. Thus, while oil and energy trade dynamics predominantly dictate India’s relationship with West Asia, India is also keen to gain the support of the region to further her own influence in global politics. It is but natural that India would seek establishment of regional peace and stability.
Arab Spring and the Syrian conundrum:
The countries in West Asia have historically been subject to authoritarian regimes built along ethnic lines and forever overshadowed by the resilient but elusive goal of an independent Palestine state vis a vis Israeli obduracy on the issue of West Bank settlements . The situation was further complicated by the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Iranian nuclear situation and the resurgence of the Muslim Brotherhood. These combined to unleash the forces of sectarianism and violence, sprawling mindless infighting. The Arab people’s uprising a couple of years back was supposed to have heralded a new spring of institutionalization of western style democracies in the region, presumably bearing fruits of peace and economic prosperity. It was a sudden spontaneous and almost viral uprising of ordinary people in huge numbers, disenchanted with their fate and demanding the right to write their own destiny. An entirely domestic and popular event claiming regime change alongside radical reforms, the issue spiraled out of hand with the involvement of regional and extra regional powers. Despite the timely volte face, the fact remains that these very extra regional governments had been supporting the autocratic regimes with huge cache of weapons and technology, which were used to suppress the people. Their present interventions in Syria and Libya have further escalated the conflict situation by unwittingly empowering the fundamentalists. While some countries like Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen are attempting a transition towards popular democratic systems with profound influence of Islamic governance, others like Bahrain and Syria are experiencing counter forces of deeply entrenched political opposition. In either case, the original goal of the popular revolution i.e. to usher in inclusive, participative and just structures and functions of governance is blurred and appears lost in the emerging post revolt complexities. The present reality therefore speaks of a starkly different future with the region from Beirut to Basra, literally under volcanic spasms, threatening to spew anytime.
India’s West Asia Policy and Syria:
India’s current tenure in the UNSC that coincided with the Arab Spring impelled her to communicate her reactions to the emerging situations and not play the role of a passive bystander. West Asia is both sensitive and crucial for India and our foreign policy interest naturally lies in peaceful and calibrated change to representative governments in the region. Also India’s economic growth is dependent upon a stable supply and price of oil .The geo political sensitivity of the region necessitates that systems be put in place to protect the oil resource and ensure its fair distribution. The abrupt end of the authoritarian regimes therefore called for a quick fill of the political void to restore internal stability. However it appears that the preparation has not been adequate and the supporters of change have been overwhelmed by the unsettling effects of the revolution and have unwillingly opened up spaces for extremist agencies to pursue their narrow sectarian agenda.
As one of the oldest and resilient democracies, India is naturally empathetic to the popular upsurge in West Asia and stands by the people’s aspirations for protection of human rights and dignity and opportunity to experience a participative, liberal political structure and authority. However we also need to watch out for subversive and non-secular actors at play in this political transformation. A closer analysis of the unfolding of events in the region would reveal that what began as popular uprisings, were gradually sidelined and overshadowed by powerbrokers that were quick to manipulate the deeply entrenched sectarianism in the society. Turning a blind eye to this dangerous game being played out behind the scene in the Arab theatre would be a huge political blunder for India as sectarianism in any form breeds instability and it would not take long for the contagion to affect its own Muslim community.
Stability and democracy are the two key factors that India seeks to restore in the region to secure her own vital interests that include the safety and security of her expatriates (the largest concentration of Indian Diaspora is in West Asia and is linked directly to flow and bulk of remittances), energy supplies, food security, investments and projects in the region, peaceful uses of nuclear energy, combating maritime piracy and the sensitivities of her vast Muslim community .
Over the years there has been an unmistakable shift in India’s foreign policy over issues of pressing and strategic concerns, which displays a resolute pragmatism. A distinct development has been in treating cases sui generis and not being captive to the nostalgic principle of non-intervention. Many experts hail this as the coming of age of our foreign policy. The same is reflected in India’s stance regarding the West Asian crisis. The Arab League resolution for Syria backed by the West has received India’s support despite Russia’s opposition to the plan. While India has come out in the open in condemning the ongoing violence irrespective of who the perpetrators were, she has also disapproved of the Russian vetoing of the Resolution. Earlier issues in the Arab Spring have however witnessed India voting alongside China and Russia; for instance on the issue of no fly zone over Libya. Before hastening to write off the contradictions as indicative of India’s tendency to flip flop on policy matters, one needs to analyze the particularities of the two scenarios. The Libyan Resolution called for authorization of all necessary measure including military means for protection of civil life and property; and India’s foreign policy in essence has always been against use of external force in violation of sovereign integrity. This is what is reflected in Indian support to the Syrian case wherein the priority is to seek resolution among Syrians first. Thus India’s position on Syria is reflective of both her commitment to the principle of sovereignty and the practical demands of a growing market economy. Also Syria and India share over fifty years of bilateral relationship with collaborations on the Middle East peace process as well as across diverse fields of information technology, R&D, academic exchanges and investments.
Considering the spread effect of the Syrian crisis, regionally as well as globally, the Indian approach evidently would conform to the time tested wisdom of containment of conflict, through counseling. For any kind of national reconciliation one would be looking for this is a prerequisite. What could follow, if times were propitious, is an UN-sponsored cease-fire mission to restore normalcy and permit conditions to emerge for holding some sort of a Syrian national initiative for democratic transition. The Cambodian or the Myanmar model could partly help sort out matters. More important would be the supervisory presence of a benign third party of which India could count as one.
On the global plane, it is perhaps time that a full scale debate is initiated on the range of issues connected with the doctrine of regime change that is currently doing the rounds. In the kind of complicated situation that Syria is today, it is no longer a simple binary scenario of government vs. the people but several stakeholders riding on the waves of popular upheaval. A hasty regime change does not necessarily bring about a responsible government; witness the outcome of the Arab Spring in other parts of the land mass—sectoral interests at first coalesce but in the course of events take on the character of contending power aspirants. The International community is not there to patronize any. It would, therefore, make imminent sense if India could somehow convince the powers that be to take up a clinical approach and do something of enduring benefit to the people of Syria. Apart from the ongoing sectarian fissures that Syria is witnessing, there is a larger calamity lurking behind’that of severe humanitarian crisis. A recent UN estimation puts the figure at 10 million Syrians —that is almost half the population in need of aid and assistance by the end of the year. Post a favorable Geneva 2 resolutions, India should focus on building democratic and decentralized institutions in Syria, focusing on good governance, resettlement of refugees, gender equality and freedom of media. This would prevent Syria from getting ensconced in new waves of insecurity post the regime change. India therefore has a critical role to play both during and post the Syrian transition to pull it out of possible vulnerabilities and promote inclusive and participatory dialogue to help establish a really truly popular democracy.
Granted that the international community does not have a credible record in the treatment of such crises and also the faith and confidence West Asian nations are likely to have on us, as compared to any other powers, — India is perhaps in the best position to handhold the new and emerging governments on the path to democratic decision-making. India has to engage in a fine balancing act between Western pressures vis a vis Russian overtures and in her relations with Iran vis a vis GCC countries. India’s foreign policy mandate should therefore focus on building relations with the new economic and political power structures, drawing on historical links and comprehending the changes taking place in those countries from close quarters and promoting the Indian model of secular and participative democracy. India should lead a collective diplomacy of the South in West Asia to nurture and preserve a forward looking development agenda that would be of unprecedented value to regional and global peace and prosperity .
There have been endless debates and discussions over which is better- passing a domestic legislation or framing a refugee convention specifically for South-East Asia. According to the researcher both should peacefully co-exist so that incase there is lacuna in domestic law, it is covered in the Asian Convention and vice versa. The various recommendations are:
1. A domestic law is needed in India to ensure that all refugees are given basic protection. Without that, refugee rights are not rights in the real sense, they are simply privileges at the hands of the administration.
2. A domestic law should also define refugees to include ‘internally displaced people’ due to natural calamities, terrorist activities. For instance, the Kashmiris were forced to flee Kashmir due to the militant activities
3. Housing and employment can be ensured to refugees so that they can become self reliant.
4. A number of civil society organizations should work in collaboration with the Govt. under this act to improve their living conditions.
5. A domestic legislation will overrule all the existing acts like the Passport act and the foreigner act and will reduce the suffering of refugees by specifically dealing with their problems.
6. A domestic legislation will make the procedure of granting refugee status simple, fair and transparent. It will also call for greater accountability and checks on the power of the officials.
7. It will abolish discrimination which currently exists among refugees of different nationalities.
8. Special provisions guaranteeing protection to women and children should be made because in the Indian society, crimes against women (rape) and children (child trafficking) is at its peak. This will also be in consonance with India’s obligations under CEDAW and UNCRC.
India is a superpower in Asia, so it has a tendency to ‘dominate’ over other nations. In such a case drafting a South Asian Refugee convention will be of great significance to ensure refugee protection.
The convention can be drafted by experts from all countries highlighting their specific issues relating to the refugees based on the understanding of each nation. In this way, the convention will reflect the background of every country.
The definition of refugee should be broadened to incorporate people displaced due to of environmental disasters, socially ostracized because of admitting openly of a different sexual orientation and people fleeing because of threat caused by crimes against women and children. This can ensure that there is no western intervention incase of dealing with refugees and at the same time, maximum protection can be given.
The convention will book the violators of refugee rights for crimes against humanity. It can also formulate a regional tribunal to handle cases of refugees- their rights, duties, trials and repatriation.
This will reduce tension between neighboring countries and improve diplomatic relations. It can be worded as, ‘providing refuge is a humanitarian act and shall not be interpreted as infringement to the Sovereignty of the nation’. It may also state that the Convention will not hold any state guilty as its only purpose is providing safe refuge to the people seeking it. When both the Convention and the municipal law are in order, there is no scope for deviation. It will be able to address all the problems and issues associated with refugees in the most efficient manner. There will be lesser arbitrariness in procedures and still if some official tries to deviate from his duty to give protection to the refugees, he will be held liable. It is high time that we have a definite refugee mechanism here because refugees will never stop coming to India for the reasons discussed above.

The Syrian uprising that begun in March 2011 has been threatening to turn into a full-fledged civil war. The uprising is inspired by the ‘Arab Spring’- a political phenomenon that swept the Arab World since early 2011. However, the underlying social, economic, and political causes of the crisis in Syria date back several decades. The government response to squash the uprising by force in Dara’a backfired and lead to the spread of the conflict across the country. This crisis also exposed the deep divisions that existed in Syria, which made extremely difficult to see a unified opposition. The geopolitical and security significance of Syria has attracted the attention of several regional actors and global powers to the Syrian crisis. It is interesting to observe the crisis has divided the regional actors and global powers. Due to this a unified international action/stance has become a distant dream. The global effort in the form of joint UNArab League commissioner, previously Annan and recently Brahimi, has shown very limited signs of success. Regional actors like Iran have been on the side of Asad, whereas Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar are vocal supporters of the opposition. Global powers such as Russia and China are preventing tougher measures against Asad in the Security Council, whereas the US and EU are adamant in calling Asad to resign and in their support to the opposition. So far, external powers involvement in Syria has contributed little to ensure stability in the country. Rather the partial support, military and diplomatic, the fighting camps are receiving from foreign entities appears to exacerbate the crisis in Syria.
Currently, the humanitarian crisis in Syria is devastating.. The presence of strong transnational cultural and social communalities among the Middle East states intimidates the speared of Syrian conflict to the region. The dominance of Alawites in the ruling circle especially in the military security apparatus and the large presence of Sunnis in the opposition have been giving the crisis a sectarian dimension. Failure to tackle the sectarian issue might lead Syria, or probable the region, into a protracted bloody civil war with global ramifications. This sectarian dimension of the Syrian crisis also putted the factional minorities of Syria in a delicate state that is full of fear and unknown future. Syria is in a difficult stage in its history. Syria’s near future either Asad resigns or not will be bleak due to the challenging fact of rebuilding a state from civil war destruction. The international effort to contain the Syrian crisis appears in shambles. The stubborn positions of both protagonists have also made it improbable to expect internally inspired deal
That could ensure a halt to the suffering. In all this, everybody seems waiting until the exhaustion of war surface or one side secures a zero-sum win. The probability of an absolute victory for any side is low because of the nature of the conflict and external involvement.

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