Vera Eccarius-Kelly: The Syrian Crisis


The Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan holding more than 80,000 Syrian Refugees (Photo: Vera Eccarius-Kelly)

It is no secret, although many nations are treating it as such, that major catastrophic events continue to occur in the Middle East. As measures grow worse and worse with every passing moment, citizens of Syria attempt to flee the country in order to avoid being tortured, harmed and even killed. This happens to be one of the largest migrations that Europe has ever experienced and, with limited resources, finding a place to house these refugees gets harder every day. The ramifications have already started to surface in many locations in Europe and with the United States agreeing to take in 10,000 refugees, it will not be long until those ramifications are seen here. However, as U.S. citizens sitting in classrooms and making their way home everyday, it is often hard to relate to these tragedies or understand what these refugees are going through. Well, that notion has changed for one of Siena’s own, Vera Eccarius-Kelly, as well as eight other faculty members from different universities, as they journeyed to various locations around the world to get first hand accounts from refugees and citizens who are being significantly effected by this migration crisis.

Vera Eccarius-Kelly is a professor of comparative politics at Siena College and the recent author of “The Militant Kurds” about the guerrilla war of the Kurdish Workers Party against the Turkish Republic. Over the previous summer, Vera visited countries such as Jordan, Turkey, Kurdistan (Northern Iraq) and Germany to speak with refugees. Throughout her trip she studied the effect of this war and immigration on Jordan and Turkey (Turkey having around 1.8-2.5 million refugees in their country), talked to refugees that had made it all the way to Germany, and visited one of many refugee camps. Upon visiting these refugee camps, Vera identified a number of tragedies within their confided walls. Specifically, the camp she visited in Jordan, Za’ateri refugee camp, was experiencing a variety of these different issues. These concerns included the lack of vegetation, the absence of jobs, no schooling or electricity, and on top of that, the rations they were once receiving were being cut once again. Even more, these camps house around 120,000 people in tents and camps, which brings about it’s own issues within itself. The government is also weary to build permanent structures for these refugees due to the fact that solid structures make this tragedy seem more permanent. These people in camps are not even allowed to leave or even more freely without an exit pass. The “trauma is visible” says Vera Eccarius-Kelly, and continues to explain how it was “one difficult story after another.”

These conditions were terribly tough; however, this wasn’t even within the borders of Syria. While it may seem like the amount of immigration from Syria is immense at the time being, according to Vera, it will only get worse as there are 7-10 million internally displaced refugees that have not yet had the opportunity to leave. Internally displaced people (IDP’s) are those citizens of a certain country who have been driven out of their homes but have not fled the country yet. This notion and the one encouraging refugees to stay in whichever country they land first is putting tremendous amounts of pressure on bordering nations. Being about 2 miles away from the warring territory, Vera explains how she witness planes flying over to drop barrel bombs on citizens as they rush outward from the city. Even more frightening is the lack of border control that Vera observed. According to her, there was not much keeping the enemies from crossing into bordering countries.

It is widely recognized that the powers at hand on Syrian turf are dangerous and life threatening. Therefore, the European Union is starting to take initiative to house these refugees however they are able rather than putting up walls and trying to keep them out. Most of these refugees are made up of children and women and it is the European Union’s thoughts that if they were in the same position they would do anything to get their families into safe territories as well. Germany, fortunately, is the leading this initiative by recently agreeing to let around 800,000 of these refugees into their country. As the crisis grows larger, it is the hope of the refugees that more nations will open their walls to them.


For more information on this hot topic, read a blog Vera Eccarius-Kelly wrote in the midst of all her traveling.

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