Question Tabassom Social Sciences

The Syrian and Afghan Refugee Crises

How is the present Syrian refugee crisis similar yet different to the Afghan refugee crisis?

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Answer Expert #735

The emergence of the Syrian refugee crisis has garnered significant European media attention over the past twelve months and has progressively expanded in scope and scale since the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War in 2011. It is not the only ongoing refugee crisis though. The Afghan refugee crisis shares many common features with its Syrian counterpart. For example, the majority of refugees settle in their nearest safe countries (Koser, 2016). In the case of Syria this is Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and Iraq, with Afghanistan's refugees largely settling in Pakistan and Iran (Anderson, 2015). Despite the misconceptions of refugees flooding into Europe, the majority remain displaced within the local region. Similarly, both Syrian and Afghan refugees have fled from civil war and power struggles within their native countries that have ultimately led to civilians becoming victims of violence, whether directly or indirectly.

There are also significant differences between the two refugee crises. The Afghan refugees are treated differently to their Syrian counterparts because the conflict in the former is considered to produce less dire conditions in the refugees' homeland (IRC, 2016; Kugelman, 2016). This has ultimately led to European nations, like Germany, seeking to repatriate Afghans whilst accepting thousands of Syrians (Kugelman, 2016). Although the circumstances are different, with Western media covering the Syrian crisis to a greater degree than the Afghan one, this has led to a greater number of the former refugees being accepted over the latter. The Afghan crisis also differs in terms of its pattern of events. It has been ongoing since 1978 and has featured several phases, including the initial war, the emergence of the Taliban and the displacement of people as a result of the War in Afghanistan (Ruiz & Emery, 2001), meaning that it is far more complex than its Syrian counterpart.


Anderson, J., (2015). Where Refugees Want to Go. The New Yorker.

IRC, (2016). Afghan Refugees and the European Refugee Crisis. International Rescue Committee.

Koser, K., (2016). International Migrations: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kugelman, M., (2016). The Other Major Refugee Crisis: 3 Million Afghans. Wall Street Journal.

Ruiz, H. & Emery, M., (2001). Afghanistan's Refugee Crisis. Middle East Report.