- Iraqi refugees in Syria: causing a spillover of the Iraqi conflict?
- Third World Quarterly
- Volume | Issue number
- 29 | 8
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
This article explores the implications of the Iraqi refugee crisis for Syria, which is believed to host up to 1.5 million Iraqi refugees. Many policy makers, activists and analysts, sometimes inspired by the conflict repercussions of refugee crises witnessed elsewhere, have warned against the regional security impact of the Iraqi exodus and consequently speculated about a possible spillover of the armed conflicts in Iraq to its neighbours. The article presents an analysis of the characteristics and composition of the Iraqi refugee population and provides an assessment of responses to the refugee crisis in Syria. Its main finding is that fears for a spillover of Iraq's violence cannot be corroborated. The relative absence of refugee violence can be explained in reference to Iraqi refugees themselves. Given their specific demographic and social traits (including age composition, educational levels and professions, and to some extent religious affiliation), in addition to refugees' sectarian segregation, an overwhelming majority of Iraqi refugees are and remain victims of the violence in Iraq; they are unlikely to become its perpetrators abroad. In this sense the Iraqi refugee crisis constitutes a strong reminder that, in order to assess the propensity of violence among refugees and their purportedly contagious impact on their places of refuge, an understanding of the causes of their flight and their roles in the conflict they are fleeing is essential. It is finally argued that security challenges are likely to come from a different source. Socioeconomic destitution among refugees and the failure to provide adequate humanitarian assistance and protection are and will be causing tensions between them and the host state and host communities.
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