In Western Europe, the past year has seen mainstream media inundated with stories of a ‘migrant crisis’, whereby refugees have made the painstaking journey of travelling from war-torn countries in the Middle East in order to seek refuge in the safe haven of Europe.

Germany alone is predicted to take in over 1 million refugees this year. Although the crisis is commonly blanketed under the heading of a Syrian refugee crisis, this influx of refugees is representative of a wider, endemic refugee crisis in the region, in which Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan have seen unprecedented levels of refugees seeking to escape the terror that Islamic fundamentalism has wrought in the area.

Over 4 million refugees in the last 4 years have left Syria, nearly 1/5th of the population, initially to seek asylum in the neighbouring states of Jordan, Turkey and the Lebanon, with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres stating this is the “biggest refugee population from a single conflict in a generation”.

Although the Syrian civil war is frequently cited as the central cause of this displacement, the main reason that this refugee crisis has penetrated Europe so deeply is the growing domination of terrorism and groups such as the Islamic State or ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) in the region.

This group’s destructive rise to prominence in the region has pushed refugees seeking safety in neighbouring states further from their homes, with millions now undertaking the perilous journey to Northwest Europe.

ISIL have significantly grown in strength and territory over the past 2 years, stating their most pronounced acquisition in March of this year, whereby this ‘state is now said to encompass over 10 million people.

The group gained a substantial footing in the region in 2013, when one of the major Syrian rebel groups, the Al-Nusra Front, were declared by the ISIL leader, al-Baghdadi, to be in allegiance with ISIL.

Although this merger was disputed by a number of members of the Al-Nusra Front, a large proportion of the group defected to ISIL, leading the group to gain the considerable grounds in Syria.

A number of Western governments sought to arm these very Syrian rebel groups, while ‘assisting’ these ground forces with allied bombing campaigns, with the aim of generating enough domestic military pressure to overthrow the Syrian regime, led by Bashar al-Assad.

However, in doing so, governments in the West failed. They failed in a number of ways. They failed to liberate the Syrian people from the civil war that has been plaguing them for the past 4 years; opting instead to deepen the conflict by inadvertently arming the very groups they so fundamentally seek to eliminate in their crusade against terror.

Indiscriminate Western led bombing campaigns are indirectly spreading the indoctrinating and radicalising concept of jihad through the killing of innocent civilians, only strengthening the enemy they seek to stop.

Like the Afghan, Iraqi and Libyan wars that preceded it, Western involvement in the current conflict in Syria is characteristic of the short-sighted foreign policies that have led to the destabilisation of the region, and the consequent inauguration of one of the greatest threats to face the world, the ruthless Islamic fundamentalism embodied in ISIL.

Unfortunately, this crisis has struck Europe at a point where far-right politics is making a resurgence. Right-wing politicians are profiting from the mainstream media portrayal of the issue of terrorism and are benefiting from the polarising effects this debate has on society.

Thus, the short-sightedness of the foreign policies of Western powers has even penetrated domestic society from afar through this polarisation and the consequent political upheaval that this recent surge of immigration has caused in these now polarised societies.

Alas, it is not just western powers that have resorted to rash bombing campaigns to resolve the issue presented by ISIL. The recent Russian bombing campaign in the region is certainly not the way to resolve this issue of radical Islamic fundamentalism.

In order to reconcile stability in the region, the great powers must work with Assad, as he is one of the few stable political agents in the region and has the domestic support needed to restore a degree of political balance.

 

Niko Pfister

Image: Day Donaldson

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