Refugees and their impact on Regional Security

Posted on Posted in Analyses, Middle East, Strategy & Defence, Terrorism, Organized Crime & Security

By Dimitris Raptis, Junior Analyst KEDISA

One of the many problems that have risen up and got great importance from the Syrian civil war is the humanitarian crisis and the displacement of Syrian people from their home country. In fact, more than 4 million people have fled Syria since the beginning of the conflict, most of them women and children.[1] The exodus of people in Syria started since 2013 and accelerated quickly as conditions in Syria have gotten worse. There are two main categories of people migrating as a result of the ongoing conflict: Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees. Internally-Displaced Persons are people who have been expelled from the places where they used to live and moved to other ones due to ongoing conflicts, human rights violations or generalized violence. Unlike refugees IDPs remain in the protection of their own government since they haven’t passed their country’s borders.[2]

The refugee situation is really dramatic and the waves of people reaching European coasts are growing day by day. However, our attention should not be limited to them, since IDPs are much more important for the stability of Syria in a macro-level timescale. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) the 4 million people who fled since the beginning of the conflict are registered, as of 12 March 2015, in the neighboring nations of Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, as well as other countries around the world. [3] The number of Internally Displaced Persons in Syria, as of July 2015 has risen up to 7.6 million people. They have left their war-torn hometowns and villages because of bombings and jihadist attacks and were settled in other towns within Syria’s territory.[4]

The movement of indigenous people in other areas has many long term effects that could destabilize the region of the Middle East. Humanitarian implications are also strategic, in terms of regional stability and the ability of neighboring states to be effective partners in the common battle against ISIS. Syria’s neighbors have opened their borders to refugees expecting that the civil war would end fast, but as ISIS fighters made their appearance, the situation has become worse.[5] In the region of the Middle East, refugee receiving countries, such as Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey estimate that Syrian people pose a threat to their security. As a result refugees often face restrictions in their mobility and are targeted by indigenous people. For example, in Lebanon many Syrians have been subjects of an assault[6] and in Kilis, Turkey refugees were banned from leaving their camps when nearby clashes have occurred.[7] The main problems in Lebanon and Jordan are poverty, inequality, financial crisis, shortages in water and energy and lastly political pressure. The aforementioned countries’ stability is not guaranteed. Lebanon’s officials are concerned that “the conflict would unravel the country socially, politically and economically creating a conductive environment for terrorism and terrorist organizations”.[8] How can host countries in the Middle East feel protected when there are historical examples that prove that refugees have been radicalized and militarized?[9]

Regional security in the Middle East has an important role in the humanitarian crisis. The international community should act with respect to Syrian people in order to face the issue and take into consideration the security concerns that emerge. Host Middle Eastern countries apart from their problems face daily the fear of radicalization of refugees and possible conflict outbreaks (domino phenomenon). How could we guarantee that the situation in these countries will not get worse? The resettlement of Syrian refugees is necessary and should take place in order to guarantee their protection and security from threats and make their living as sustainable as possible. The funds and resources available should be spent strategically and accordingly to each country’s needs. If the resettlement of refugees fails to meet the expectations of the international community, we are afraid that the risk of instability in the Middle East will increase at higher levels and will have a negative effect in this particular region and beyond. As the fighting against extremist organizations continues, the issue of regional security will remain an important topic to analyze.


[1] Men who stay in Syria are concentrated in the opposing groups fighting Assad’s forces and ISIS. Men who flee, due to a Syrian constitutional law who calls them to fight in case of emergency are thought to be deserters.

[2] http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49c3646c146.html

[3] http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/regional.php

[4] http://www.internal-displacement.org/middle-east-and-north-africa/syria/figures-analysis

[5] https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/security/news/2014/08/12/95595/syrian-refugee-crisis-threatens-stability-in-the-middle-east/

[6] http://www.isp.usj.edu.lb/pdf/Powerpoint%20En%20Final.pdf

[7] http://www.alquds.co.uk/?p=381398

[8] https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/security/news/2014/08/12/95595/syrian-refugee-crisis-threatens-stability-in-the-middle-east/

[9] See the case of Palestinian militant groups in Jordan and Lebanon.