Connect with us

Eastern Europe

Syrians Not Seeking, Syrians Not Welcome: Refugees and the Caspian Region

Published

on

The primary point of interest here is why Syrians are fleeing their nation and where they are going. The primary reason they are fleeing is relatively obvious: Syria is currently being torn apart by war and its citizens want to be free of the violence, destruction and general unrest.

But with increased pressure being placed on western states to accept a larger number of refugees, a secondary reason now also exists. There is a segment of the population fleeing in the hopes of upgrading their quality of life, despite not having been affected, or having been very negligibly affected, by the violence in Syria. In some cases the ‘refugees’ have yet to be displaced at all. The more interesting point of interest here is where Syrian refugees are going. The Syrian refugees have largely settled in nations along immediate borders such as Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. There has also been a coalition of support from European and Eastern nations that have accepted large numbers of refugees. One group of nations, however, is notably rejecting support and has remained almost entirely refugee free: the Caspian states. These states are all geographically located very close to Syria and to date have either failed to accept any refugees or have accepted a trivial amount. In contrast, a nation such as Canada, literally on the other side of the world, has done more in the past month to support refugees than the entire Caspian region has since the conflict began.

Geography is the most easily justifiable reason for refugees to choose a nation to emigrate to. It is easier, logistically speaking, to take in refugees from one country to another if the countries are bordering each other. In the case of the Syrian conflict this is best exemplified by Turkey. Since the conflict began, it has taken in over 2 million Syrian refugees, nearly twice as many as the next highest, Lebanon. However, other nations that either directly or very closely border Syria have failed to take on any refugees. The most readily apparent Caspian state to fit the bill is Iran. To date they have accepted zero confirmed refugees despite being the closest state in the Caspian to Syria. Russia and Azerbaijan would be the next closest Caspian states to border with Syria, though there is a small nation in between (Georgia and Armenia respectively). Similar to Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia have taken in zero refugees. What may be occurring in this case is ‘opportunity asylum.’ Meaning that by having to travel through one nation to reach another, which is necessary to reach any of the Caspian states, refugees may receive asylum from the first nation they cross before reaching the second. Most refugees will accept guaranteed asylum in a nation rather than take their chances at the next one. This theory receives some support from the number of refugees in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq, but doesn’t explain why western nations significantly further away are accepting larger numbers of refugees while the much closer Caspian states continue to accept none. Thus, there must be other factors at play outside of geography and opportunity asylum.

Politics always plays a significant role with refugees. This does not appear to be the issue in the Caspian region, however, as all five nations of the Caspian have policies in place to deal with the intake of refugees, be it from Syria or anywhere else. The history of refugee intake in the Caspian is not one decorated with successes, however. Azerbaijan has the most visibly negative track record for refugees, as its own citizens have historically at times fled from the nation to become refugees elsewhere, primarily in Armenia. Every other state in the Caspian, however, has accepted refugees at one time or another. Iran in particular boasts by far the most impressive track record for refugee intake in the region. They have hosted the largest population of refugees in the world since 1979 and an Iranian, Sadruddin Aga Khan, assumed the position of High Commissioner for Refugees on behalf of the UN from 1965 to 1977. Thus, there is precedent within the Caspian region for accepting refugees. So there must be other factors at play outside of politics keeping Syrians from finding asylum in the Caspian.

Social concerns and persecution have played the largest role in keeping Syrians out of the Caspian region. Despite the fact that all Caspian nations have refugee policies in place there are some significant social concerns when accepting asylum in a foreign nation. Will that nation treat you well? Will they respect your customs, culture, or religion? Will they temporarily house and feed you until a more permanent solution materializes? Does the possibility of permanent citizenship and naturalization exist? These are important questions for a refugee to consider when fleeing any nation, particularly Syria, as there are currently many other options available. The policies may be in place formally but Caspian states have been notoriously difficult for refugees seeking asylum. Numerous human rights groups have been particularly critical of Russia’s refugee policies. There have been multiple reports citing concerns with everything from detention centers to impossibly tight deadlines to submit refugee applications, which could then deny them refugee status if not completed on time. Perhaps of greatest concern is the fact that Russia does not prohibit the return of refugees to their home country, which therefore does not guarantee asylum and is inconsistent with international norms. In Iran, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan there have been numerous reports of refugees experiencing human rights violations and racism. Combine that with general poverty for refugees in these nations and none of the states are particularly appealing options for seeking asylum. This therefore begs perhaps a rhetorical question: why would a refugee flee from persecution and violence in Syria only to arrive in a Caspian state and be persecuted more?

The fact of the matter is that Syrian refugees are not being accepted into the Caspian region largely because they do not want to claim asylum in the Caspian states. There are other contributing factors in geography and policy but ultimately when other nations with a better track record in economy, human rights and historical refugee acceptance exist as asylum options, then there is no reason to choose a lesser Caspian state. Though to be fair to refugees, the Caspian nations certainly are not encouraging Syrians to come and claim asylum either. In fact, the very opposite is occurring, as states like Russia have explicitly stated they will not be accepting any.

Finally, there could be an element of public image at play as well. If Syrians claim asylum in the Caspian and are persecuted shortly thereafter, an immense amount of critical attention and involvement from the UN and global community could be drawn. It could very well cause a state to suffer embarrassment or even sanction. Rather than potentially suffer this embarrassment on the international stage, the Caspian states have de facto closed their borders knowing it would be near impossible to guarantee that Syrian refugees would remain free of persecution in the host nations. The chance of this changing before the Syrian conflict ends is virtually zero and thus the Caspian will remain free of Syrian refugees for the foreseeable future.

Continue Reading
Comments

Eastern Europe

What UK defense minister was doing in Odessa, or a taste for farce

Published

on

History repeats itself. This popular maxim also rings very true today. Many episodes of the Crimean War are still fresh on the memory of Russians, French and the British. Disregarding the sanctions and “annexation,” Britons and French nationals keep coming to Sevastopol to take part in a historical festival, donning period costumes and engaging in mock battles.

And yet, the distant successors of those who fought Russia during that war still remember, on a genetic level, how Russian soldiers kept fighting on against the tallest of odds (during one of the battles fought  in Sevastopol, mortally wounded and bleeding members of a Russian regiment still refused to plead for mercy and, instead, continued fighting the enemy with their bayonets) even at lunch, after five in the evening, and, most unpleasantly, at night. The war fought not by the book, the freezing cold of the Crimean winter and the well-known “balaclava” headdress is something Russia’s foreign guests will never forget.

It still looks like the lessons of history have been lost on some representatives of the British elite. In December 2018, Britain’s Defense Minister Gavin Williamson arrived in Odessa in southern Ukraine to vent his outrage about the detention by Russia’s Coast Guards of three Ukrainian boats at the approaches to the Kerch Strait, and express London’s support for a second Ukrainian naval foray into the Sea of Azov. It was not Williamson’s first visit to Ukraine though – in September 2018, he bravely spent a whole 20 minutes on the line of disengagement in Donbass.

London is backing up its military-diplomatic efforts with real action.

“At 20:30 local time, on December 17, 2018, the Royal hydrographic survey ship HMS Echo sailed into the Black Sea via the Bosporus Strait. This modern reconnaissance ship is designed to conduct operations in support of submarines and amphibious operations. It can share adapted information almost in real time. (…) This is the first NATO warship to enter the Black Sea in the wake of the Azov crisis to demonstrate the UK’s support for ensuring freedom of navigation in the region,” Ukrainian expert Andrei Klimenko happily wrote.

In the mid-19th century, Britain regarded Russia as an enemy in the Big Game, and opposed it using political and economic means available to it. Simultaneously, it was the case of an empire facing off against another empire – in the Balkans, in the Caucasus and over the straits (Bosporus and Dardanelles). Britain no longer rules the seas, but its keen interest in strategic straits, such the Kerch Strait, is still very much alive.

London’s strategy, being implemented as part of the anti-Russian bloc, can best be described as “I’m doing all I can.” However, the former empire is playing an ever increasing role now that Ukraine is not being viewed by US President Donald Trump as an object worth of any effort. Still, there are powerful anti-Russian forces out there, which will not just sit and watch the presidential elections in Ukraine and, even though they have lost their patron in the person of the US president, they remain hell-bent on making Ukraine instrumental in their efforts to ramp up the conflict with Moscow.

Washington is reviewing international agreements and withdrawing its forces from Syria focusing instead on playing spy games, but now on its own territory, to fight the “Russian threat,” “Russian aggression,” and most importantly – “Russian intervention.” The central events and characters here are the Mueller investigation, the case of Maria Butina, and the recent detention in Moscow of a former US Marine, Paul Whelan, on charges of espionage.

But this is not enough, so you need something else, more dramatic and attention-grabbing, preferably done by someone else.

No matter how opposed to Trump’s policies some top officials in the US government may be, they still can’t afford to openly defy the president and thus destroy the country’s power institutions. And here political analysts  come up with a very interesting version: “Therefore, England takes the burden of orchestrating the Ukrainian-Russian war in its own hands. Well, not England as such, but, rather, the real masters of both England and the United States (…) Poroshenko may not venture a provocation, and to make sure that he gets no ideas about giving up on the war, the British defense minister arrived in Ukraine. (…) Britain is bringing pressure to bear on Kiev to go to war with Russia in the coming week, period.”

Although a second foray into the Kerch Strait planned for the coming week never happened, the plan itself hasn’t gone anywhere. A follow-up to the provocation in the Kerch Strait has gone beyond the time frame outlined by the martial law President Poroshenko imposed ahead of the presidential election, but the threat of new provocations fraught with a confrontation  lingers on nonetheless.

The law “On the adjacent zone of Ukraine,” signed by Petro Poroshenko in December 2018, provides a legal basis for actions by the Ukrainian military and diplomats by expanding Kiev’s border and customs control in the Black Sea.

“In the adjacent zone, the State Border Service of Ukraine will prevent violations of national immigration and sanitary legislation. Border guards will be able to stop vessels, inspect them, detain or seize vessels or their crew members, with the exception of warships and other state ships used for non-commercial purposes.”

The new law sets the stage for further provocations against Russia by portraying it as “an aggressor and invader,” backing this up with “irrefutable evidence” and showing it on TV.

The coordinated nature of the actions and intentions by the “friends” of Russia in ensuring “free navigation in international waters” is too obvious to ignore. Following the provocation in the Kerch Strait, the US guided-missile destroyer McCampbell was allegedly spotted in the vicinity of a Russian naval base in Vladivostok.

US Pacific Fleet spokeswoman Rachel McMarr said that the ship had carried out a “freedom of navigation” operation.

“The USS McCampbell sailed in the vicinity of Peter the Great Bay to challenge Russia’s excessive maritime claims and uphold the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea enjoyed by the United States and other Nations,” McMarr told CNN.

She emphasized that “the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows.”

Britain’s policy of the past few years has been pretty strange. Execution-wise, its actions are perceived as a farce and essentially as a tragedy for the country’s political elite. London is taking cue from Kiev, with its actions and “projects” (the Skripal case and the Salisbury subproject) very much resembling Ukrainian projects. London came up with the “Skripal poisoning,” and Kiev – with the day-long “Babchenko’s murder” circus.

Sadly, this anti-Russian trend translates into a real policy based on farce and fakes, which does not change the essence of London’s foreign policy projects based on fakes.

Ukraine, for its part, continues its attempts at “coercion to conflict,” which may bring about a clash of civilizations, since this is an attempt to influence the decisions of the “core states of civilization (Samuel Huntington). However, the conflicts that Ukraine has been involved in and has initiated are the result of outside bidding and made possible thanks to the support from and sanctions by external forces.

Ukraine’s foreign policy is by and large determined by the logic of its policy at home. Ending up as a zone of inter-civilization conflict, Kiev is willy-nilly trying to rebuild the cultural foundations of the Ukrainian state and society.

The West appears all set to extract Ukraine from the sphere of the political, economic and socio-cultural influence of Russia. It is within this framework that Kiev and all sorts of other actors are working as they try to achieve their domestic goals thus stoking up tensions and radicalizing both the country’s political forces and some elements of the Ukrainian society.

All this farce and grandstanding by European and overseas leaders and politicians still fails to smokescreen the potential threats to the security of the Russian Federation. In this sense, the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait should be viewed as a place where the West may attempt a series of “tests” similar to the November 2018 attempt by Ukrainian naval boats to break into the Sea of Azov. The recent “heroic” cruise by US naval ships 100 kilometers off Vladivostok, presumably to “challenge Russia’s excessive maritime claims and uphold the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea enjoyed by the United States and other nations,” could be repeated also in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait, along the Northern Sea Route, in the Arctic and the Baltic Sea.

The Black Sea region thus becomes a model of counteracting the “sea claims of Russia.” Indeed, it is a really volatile region with an unstable Ukraine ready for any provocations, Crimea, reunited with Russia (plus the Crimean Bridge), a high-handed NATO member, Turkey, which maintains close contacts with both Russia and the West, and the Caucasus region. It poses a problem for Russia due to the flurry of potential and real threats existing there, but it is also a problem for Russia’s “friends,” because of the high degree of security of the Crimean border and other borders of the Russian Federation. This combination of security and threats makes the Black Sea region an ideal place for all sorts of provocations and endurance tests.

Well aware of Russia’s strength, the West is trying to test Moscow’s determination with small, albeit significant, provocations, such as the Ukrainian naval ships’ attempt to enter the Sea of Azov on November 25, 2018. The West is equally aware of Russia’s response to such provocations by Kiev. What is not so clear to the West, however, and London’s activity attests to this, is how Russia will respond to similar passages by multinational flotillas. This uncertainty could only stem from a desire to trigger a conflict or from misguided thoughts about Russia’s indecisiveness to enter into a serious confrontation with the West.

Whatever grounds London or Washington may have for organizing a second cruise to the Crimean Bridge, no matter how many ships will take part and the flags they will sail under, Russia will do all it takes to protect its territory, border, water area, and important infrastructure.

The question London has to answer now is how will the former empire get out of this situation? There are only two options available: either to stage ever new provocations or continue grandstanding and firing verbal broadsides.

First published in our partner International Affairs

Continue Reading

Eastern Europe

2019: A difficult political year in Lithuania

Published

on

2019 will be a big political year in Lithuania, with elections in national focus. Lithuania will hold presidential, municipal and European Parliament elections this year.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite in her traditional New Year congratulation message was very restrained and short-spoken. She clearly understands that she did nothing outstanding to be proud of. This message looked more as a warning. It could be read between the lines that she warned of a new difficult year with the same unsolved problems.

The outgoing president said that “there are many challenges ahead next year – on the international arena and domestically.” It is hard to disagree. Lithuanian politics in 2018 has not been shaped by brilliant economic, social or military policy decisions or results.

Thus, Lithuanian politician, Kęstutis Girnius, is also sure that the coming year will not be easy. He said that the prolonged massive teacher strikes at the end of the year is a very important thing to remember in 2019. “Teachers and medics are those professional groups in Lithuania that always stand up and speak up. Neither this government nor the previous ones were able to solve their issues.”

The authorities did not consider those groups’ problems important in due course and as a result they faced national defiance. Much more seriously the authorities treated the Russian threat, though yet only potential.

In the past year, the military budgets of the Baltic countries swiftly overcame the two percent barrier. The region’s political elite concentrated on anti-Russian rhetoric, very often to the detriment of their economic interests. Though authorities need to recognize the impossibility to change the political course of the giant Russia. For example, Lithuania’s 2 percent of GDP on defence expenditures will not stop Russia, but could seriously harm the welfare of its people. Supporting the US’ idea of increasing defence expending, at the same time Lithuanian government overlooked the real problems of teachers and doctors putting them at risk of poverty.

The more so, the authorities believe in vain that ordinary people do not understand the threat of an armed conflict between Russia and the US on the territory of the Baltics. Providing the territory for conducting large-scale maneuvers the Baltic States irritate Russia and necessitate her to deploy troops closer to their borders. Closed circle: even small increasing of defence capabilities in the Baltic States causes huge increasing of defence capabilities in Russia.

Continue Reading

Eastern Europe

A new old minister of defense in Latvia

Published

on

Ministry of Defence, Latvia. photo: Wikipedia

The process of forming a new government in Latvia has become an exciting political show. And show must go on. And it really goes on. After three unsuccessful attempts to find a candidate for the prime-minister post who could overcome disagreement between political parties, President Vejonis hopes that Krišjānis Kariņš after all will gain support and will be able to form the government.

Though this question remains open, it is already known that For Development/For alliance (after 2018 Latvian parliamentary election it is the 4th largest party in Latvia) has decided to support a government proposed by the New Unity’s Krišjānis Kariņš and is delegating Artis Pabriks, Juris Pūce and Ilze Viņķele for ministerial positions, told the alliance’s representative Laila Spaliņa.

For Development/For proposes Pabriks for the position of defence minister, Puce for environmental protection and regional development minister and Viņķele for health minister.

For Development/For co-chairman Pūce believes that Pabriks’ previous job experience as minister of foreign affairs and defence makes him a good candidate for defence minister and vice-premier. Pabriks would be able to “successfully introduce a comprehensive defence system in Latvia, coordinating the work of various institutions and cooperation between the public and private sector.”

It must be noted, that Artis Pabriks is a controversial person in Latvian politics. Though he has some political support, Latvians do not like him. His statements very often became headlines and were severely criticised by his colleges and ordinary people.

For example in 2006 he had an idea to create movies and documentaries that objectively would reflect the history of the country. Another question is how this objectiveness was understood. “I think, that Latvia is not so poor and we could allocate at least two million euros …”, said Pabriks in the interview to Neatkarīgā. Latvians did not like the idea to spend money on its realization.

He also has not achieved yet one of his aims: to persuade Russia to accept the fact of Latvia’s occupation. He wanted public recognition, and he insisted that Russia conduct public survey or referendum where he hopes people admit Latvia’s occupation.

His political incompetence is visible to the naked eye. Russia will never rewrite its history and will never admit something that downplays its significance on the international arena. But the worst thing in the internal affairs in Latvia is lack of new politicians, lack of new ideas and thus lack of new possibilities to male life better.

Latvians who want to see new faces in politics could not really expect changes in the defence system because of a new “old” minister. Everything will remain the same. Why then a new government?

Continue Reading

Latest

Reports1 hour ago

Renewable Energy the Most Competitive Source of New Power Generation in GCC

Renewable energy is the most competitive form of power generation in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, according to a new...

East Asia3 hours ago

China’s Soft Power Diplomacy on North Korean Nuclear Crisis

For about the last two decades, North Korea’s nuclear weapon development program has become one of the major issues of...

Newsdesk5 hours ago

World Bank Group Announces $50 billion over Five Years for Climate Adaptation and Resilience

The World Bank Group today launched its Action Plan on Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience. Under the plan, the World...

Style7 hours ago

SIHH: Master Ultra Thin Tourbillon Enamel

The new Master Ultra Thin Tourbillon Enamel features a new tourbillon movement and a new-look date counter. They form a...

South Asia9 hours ago

Pakistan Securing Its Maritime Interest and CPEC

The IOR is a major sea route that unites the Middle East, Africa, and East Asia with Europe and America....

Newsdesk11 hours ago

Making Globalization Work: Climate, Inclusiveness and International Governance Top Agenda of the WEF 2019

The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2019 will take place on 22-25 January in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland. The meeting brings together...

Americas13 hours ago

How Has the Purpose(s) of American Higher Education Changed Over Time, and Why?

Initially, universities and colleges have been founded on three central promises such as (a) teaching, (b) public services, and (c)...

Trending

Copyright © 2018 Modern Diplomacy