Escalating conflicts and continued political instability in the Middle East and parts of Africa have sparked one of the biggest refugee crises in well over half a century, a situation described by the United Nations as the worst of its kind since World War II. Over 250,000 asylum seeking migrants have risked life and limb in a bid to cross the Mediterranean for a chance at a better life in Europe, often undertaking the journey on makeshift, and severely overcrowded boats.
The main points of arrival have been Italy, which has consistently been so over the past decade, and Greece which has been overwhelmed by migrants fleeing ongoing conflicts in the Middle East. According to statistics, 98,000 have entered Europe via Italy and 124,000 in Greece by early August this year. The majority have come from civil-war stricken Syria, Eritrea, Somalia, Libya, Nigeria and Afghanistan amongst others.
The crisis has understandably piled pressure on global relief organisations that have had to up the ante in order to cater the overwhelming number of migrants.
Locally, a number of humanitarian organsiations are responding to the crisis, such as Islamic Relief South Africa (IRSA), who have been operating and assisting refugees on the front lines in countries like Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey amongst others. As a result of the current situation, the country has also begun relief efforts in European countries that have become overwhelmed by migrants.
“Refugees are sheltered in hastily established transit camps run by local volunteers. Those that cannot be accommodated in the swelling camps sleep on the streets. All struggle to access basic services and lack even basic yet essential items such as blankets and soap,” the organisation explained in a statement addressing the crisis.
IRSA have begun work on the Greek Island of Lesvos, which has become a key arrival point for refugees, coordinating with other humanitarian groups to assist the migrants.
“We are working closely with partners on the ground, and we will provide refugees with essential items and cultural mediation services to help new arrivals to access the services and advice they need.”
The organisation has also set up camp in Germany, which has seen the most arrivals since the country vowed to take in around 800 000 this ear. Here refugees have been given coupons to be used for the purchasing of clothing, shoes and other items from IR’s charity shops.
GOTG on the other hand has continued to focus its efforts in war-torn Syria, providing healthcare and aid relief to this affected by the counties devastating conflict. The group has been running the Ar Rahma Hospital since 2013, at great risk to its own personnel.
“This GOTG hospital has been subjected to repeated attacks by the Assad regime. Fortunately, till now, it has avoided major damage. On two occasions we had to evacuate equipment, medical personnel and patients. Two months ago we received 1700 casualties in 10 days,” said founder Dr Imtiaz Sooliman.
The situation in Syria has escalated beyond critical levels, with food and water, medical services and equipment all in short supply. This while the regime of Basher Al-Assad continues to wage war on its own people, a conflict that has so far led to more than 300 000 innocent casualties.
In terms of GOTG’s medical work in the region, donations from local donors has gone a long way to aiding the organisation in the way of acquiring much needed medical resources and supplies; this in turn helping to heal around 300 000 patients since the start of the war.
“Life saving medical support, provision of food, shelter, food, milk powder, shelter, clothing, blankets, generalized feeding through a permanent kitchen and education through our involvement in schooling are our continuous efforts inside Syria,” added Sooliman.
Qari Ziyaad Patel of the Al-Imdaad Foundation, which has been aiding refugees on the borders of Turkey and Jordan since the breakout of the Syrian war, stressed the plight of those now attempting to make the journey further west towards Europe.
“People out of desperation are willing to risk their lives to go by boat on the Mediterranean, and using various other routes to reach different countries in Europe just for a better life and some prosperity. This should be an alarm, not only to ourselves but to all of the human race,” he said.
While Al Imdaad has been positively involved in the refugee crisis, Patel says they will now be assessing the current situation in order to see what assistance they can bring to those in need. Amongst the key points singled out is the need to ensure the Syrians refugees are being fed halaal foods, are being provided adequate shelter as well as much needed medical assistance.
“We will continue to persevere and serve those Syrians that have been fleeing the violence and troubles. We are going to try and always be at the forefront of seeing to their needs, whether it been in Europe, Asia or on the borders of Syria. Al Imdaad is going to try its utmost to be of assistance to those who are fleeing the violence,” he stated.
Reports suggested around 2,600 migrants in 2015 alone have died trying to attempting cross into Europe via the Mediterranean.
For more information on how to contribute towards Al-Imdaad’s relief operations visit http://www.alimdaad.com/html/
Donations to IRSA can be made to http://www.islamic-relief.org.za/
To make your contribution towards the Gift of the Givers, donate via the following bank account details:
Gift of the Givers, Standard Bank, Pietermaritzburg, Account No. 052278611, Branch Code 057525.