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A different perspective on the Syrian refugee crisis

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Jun 16, 2016

Most of the people who were living in Syria in 2011 are now refugees. That's the stark message of a new report from the Pew Research Center.

The impact of the Syrian refugee crisis is unprecedented in our era, Pew reports. Iraq was never like this. Even Rwanda, during the bloodbaths of 1994, was not like this. 12.5 million people-- about 60% of the country's pre-war population-- have been driven from their homes.

From our vantage point, thousands of miles away, we tend to imagine these refugees are pouring into Europe, with a few making their way to America. But that's a distorted view, the Pew study informs us. More than half of the displaced persons are still in Syria: living in tents, or with friends and relatives, or on the road. Of those who have left the country, the vast majority are somewhere in the Middle East or in northern Africa. Only a sliver of the total-- perhaps 1 million out of more than 12 million-- are seeking asylum in Europe.

We think of the "refugee crisis" as a problem for Europe and America, and it is that. But it's an even more serious problem for countries like Lebanon and Jordan: smaller, less affluent, and less stable than the nations of Europe, now forced to cope with a flood of desperate new arrivals. 

I'm not suggesting a policy solution; I don't have one. I'm only recommending a broader perspective on the problem.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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