In fighting Islamic State and Assad, Britain cannot forget their victims

Flickr - The U.S. Army - Loading up. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Flickr – The U.S. Army – Loading up. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

According to David Cameron, the aim of British involvement in Iraq and Syria would be to stabilise the area. This of course, in the short term, means the defeat of the Islamic State and a resolution to the conflict in Syria. It appears to be vitally important to our government that this particular area returns to some semblance of calm. Presumably, no one wants to be investing time and money defeating groups such as Islamic State only for the short term. It would make sense therefore to pursue a long term strategy.

It appears that airstrikes could become the main thrust of global policy. A military solution has taken a front seat with Britain and the US having pledged to bomb IS out of Iraq and the likelihood that British troops will train ‘moderate’ Syrian rebels. However the growing number of refugees will likely serve to counteract Britain’s military policy, given the state of deprivation in which many now live.

Vast numbers of the refugees forced into camps and settlements in neighbouring states are the very young. They represent the next generation of whatever Syria and Iraq are to be in the future. It is for this reason that a large scale and well executed response to the refugee issue is vital. Instability and struggle breed contempt, and the refugees in the area are surrounded by both. In this case their homes are semi-permanent camps, school is now a luxury and the ramifications for mental health are tragic. These are the youth who will be tasked with rebuilding the region from the ground up, but instead, it’s easy to imagine that a life of sectarianism could appeal to such an ignored, disenfranchised and brutalised generation.

Yet, it is not only the youngest that are affected. It is thought that up to a million Syrian refugees in Turkey could go without food, shelter and medicine. A week after that particular news hit, the UN had to cut food aid by 40 percent due to a lack of funding. IS advances are only creating further displacement and terror.

Thus far only 50 asylum seekers have been accepted into Britain this year. A figure that is shameful when compared to the likes of Germany and Sweden. Given that there are over three million refugees in total in Syria and Iraq’s neighbouring states, it’s an embarrassment.

The UK’s financial response has been better than most, coming behind only that of the US. Yet given the predicted cost of fighting IS, it would be best to remember that security risks come in numerous forms, not solely the most obvious. Deprivation and desperation need to be combated, as they are the building blocks of future violence. If aid is forgotten in favour of arms we will see more refugee camps, more airstrikes and more deaths.

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