Syria’s desperate diaspora

The slaughter of the Syrian people has been ongoing for two years now. Over 100,000 are dead, 4.2 million have fled their homes, and 2 million are refugees in neighbouring countries.


As shocking as those statistics are, behind each of those figures is a real person. When I was in Lebanon recently, I met with many Syrian families who had fled their homes. The people I met had all lived very ordinary and peaceful lives in Syria – they were farmers, shop owners, chefs. It was devastating to see how these people’s lives had been torn apart.


Through Caritas and other Church partners, Trócaire is getting food, blankets and other vital aid to Syrian refugees. So far, thanks to the generosity of our supporters, we have reached over 190,000 refugees and displaced people, but every day this war continues the need becomes even greater.



This war has resulted in the worst humanitarian crisis the world has seen in a generation. Already, four times as many people have been driven from their homes as were left homeless by the earthquake in Haiti three and a half years ago.


The use of chemical weapons and attacks against civilians represent abhorrent breaches of international human law and reminds us how this war has lost all sense of humanity. How the world responds to this action has the potential to increase efforts for peace, or further inflame an already volatile regional situation.   


The focus of the international community must be on ending the war in Syria and easing what is the worst humanitarian crisis the world has seen in a generation. Military action by Western governments runs the risk of increasing regional tensions, fuelling the war further and increasing the humanitarian crisis.


Our sole concern should be protecting civilian life. After two years of war, it is only right to question whether all diplomatic avenues towards bringing about peace have been explored. 


The United Nations Security Council has remained hopelessly divided as individual self-interest continues to dominate global security policy. Once again, this situation reminds us of the tragic consequences of placing world peace into the hands of the world’s largest arms dealers.



The members of the UN Security Council have an obligation to uphold international law and protect the lives of civilians in Syria. So far, they have failed to do this. They must put rivalries aside and fulfil their duties.


Our partners, both in Syria and Lebanon, are deeply concerned that military strikes will exacerbate the humanitarian crisis. Given Syria’s high population density and already destroyed infrastructure, increased military action will lead to an increase in the number of Syrian civilians fleeing the country.



The humanitarian consequences of military action may be enormous. Military strikes are unlikely to lead to a political solution and there is a real fear that they will only increase regional tensions and further diminish chances of a negotiated peace settlement.


When I spoke to Syrian refugees living in tents and other temporary homes, they all told me of their deep desire for peace. Their only wish in this world is to return to their homes and begin to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.


For this wish to come true, we must use diplomacy and dialogue to end the fighting.


Eamonn Meehan is the Deputy Executive Director of Trócaire. To find out more about Trócaire’s Syria appeal, visit or call 1850 408 408 (RoI) or 0800 912 1200 (NI).