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Assist would-be refugees before they leave home

Syrian refugees waited at the port of Lesbos, Greece, to board a ferry to Athens on Monday. The island of some 100,000 residents has been transformed by 20,000 refugees and migrants.
Syrian refugees waited at the port of Lesbos, Greece, to board a ferry to Athens on Monday. The island of some 100,000 residents has been transformed by 20,000 refugees and migrants.PETROS GIANNAKOURIS/AP

Eleven million Syrians — half of the country’s population — have been uprooted by civil war. The majority — 7.6 million — are stuck inside Syria. Ensuring that they get help where they are is essential to stemming the tide of migrants flowing into Europe. A network of brave organizations has been continuing to provide life-saving assistance in the face of danger. Hand in Hand for Syria, an organization cofounded by a British-born Syrian, delivers desperately needed food, medical assistance, and water-purification kits. MercyCorps, an international humanitarian group, delivers food to 500,000 Syrians a month, near Aleppo, and is planning a program to help teenagers who’ve been traumatized by war.

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Restore cuts to refugee services in the Middle East

Syrians crossed into Hungary from Serbia underneath the border fence near Roszke, Hungary, on Aug. 26.
Syrians crossed into Hungary from Serbia underneath the border fence near Roszke, Hungary, on Aug. 26.bela szandelszky/ap

Media reports have focused on the flood of migrants — most of whom are Syrian refugees — into Europe. In the past month alone, more than 100,000 have reached Germany, roughly the same number as applied for asylum the previous four years. But the lion’s share of the burden of hosting Syrian refugees continues to fall on three countries that border Syria: Lebanon, a country of 4.4 million that has taken in 1.1 million Syrian refugees; Jordan, which has taken in 1.4 million; and Turkey, which has taken in 1.9 million. It’s essential that host countries are given support so the influx of helpless people won’t destabilize them.

The World Food Programme has been issuing food vouchers worth a maximum of $35 a month per person to 2.1 million Syrian refugees in the region. But in recent months, the cash-strapped agency was forced to drop some 700,000 people from the rolls. In July, the value of the vouchers dropped to $13.50 per person per month. These deep cuts helped spark the stampede into Europe. “We have to help people where they are or they will move,” Abeer Etefa, a WFP spokeswoman told the Associated Press.

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Yet as recently as last Friday, WFP sent text messages to 200,000 more people living outside of refugee camps in Jordan, telling them their rations would disappear. Refugees should not have to trek across continents and deadly seas to receive assistance. Those who are concerned about the migrant crisis in Europe ought to advocate full funding for the UN’s Syria appeal. A global crisis requires a global response.

Demand that world leaders broker an end to the conflict

A Syrian held a picture of German Chancellor Angela Merkel as he arrived in Munich on Saturday.
A Syrian held a picture of German Chancellor Angela Merkel as he arrived in Munich on Saturday.Sean Gallup/Getty Images

The only long-term solution to this crisis is to put a stop to the conflicts that force people from their homes in the first place. The largest movement of people since World War II has grown out of man-made disasters: wars in Syria and Afghanistan, political repression in Eritrea. World leaders seem to have all but given up on an attempt to broker an end to the Syrian civil war. The situation in Europe serves as a reminder that we can’t turn a blind eye to suffering in other parts of the world without paying a price. Americans who care should let their representatives in Congress know that they expect US diplomats to continue to seek a negotiated solution to the civil war in Syria.

Related:

Stephen Kinzer: Today’s refugee crisis is the price for yesterday’s interventions

Editorial: EU must take unified approach to migrant crisis

John Tirman: The failure of neoliberalism and the global migrant crisis

2013 | Ideas: America’s borders, porous from the start

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