The response of our politicians regarding Syria has been pathetic. I di suggest the following to the, then, foreign secretary, Malcolm Rifkind, some time ago.
Re Syrian refugees
It is a quite common situation where the situation in one country causes many of its citizens to want to leave. They leave their own country and arrive in another country as refugees or try to. Often the new country is contiguous with the first.
This is the case in Syria. Suppose the country where the refugees leave is Syria and one of the possible countries where they arrive is Turkey.
The problem is that the number of refuges can be very large. This causes all sorts of problems for Turkey. Since the refugees leave Syria with next to nothing when they arrive in Turkey they are incapable of providing for themselves. They have to be feed. They have to be housed. Their children need schools and they all need health care.
None of this is Turkey’s fault yet they are imposed on.
Suppose we look at this from the point that some mechanism is required to look after these people but at the same time we need to reduce the cost imposed upon Turkey.
Suppose that it is accepted that Turkey can refuse to let them in. But we still have to provide for the Syrian refugees. One way of doing this is to say that a space on the Syrian side of the border with Turkey is deemed to be a refuge. But the refugees in this space are treated as if they were refugees inside Turkey. That is, this space is still part of Syria but the refugees there are maintained by Turkey with the help of any other country that is prepared to provide the resources necessary.
The key point is that this refuge is still part of Syria and under no circumstances does Turkey have any claim to it now or later.
However to be able to provide for these refuges not only must Turkey provide food, materials for shelter, education and health but it also has to protect them as it would if they were actually in Turkey. It should, therefore, be entitled to use whatever force is necessary to do this but purely as a defensive mechanism. Turkey does this with Turkish forces or any others available who are, in a sense, neutral regarding the conflict in Syria.
On the other hand the refuges in the refuge are constrained in their behaviour so as to minimise any aggravation to the existing situation. In particular, they are not allowed to prepare or take any action against the existing Syrian authorities. Turkey has an absolute right to return any person indulging in such activities back to Syria.
As the number of refugees increases the Turkish authorities would be entitled to increase the size of the refuge.
Where there was a possibility of conflicts between refugees the Turkish authorities would be able to create more than one refuge and would be allowed to allocate refugees to the appropriate refuge.
When one considers how long some refugees from other conflicts have remained refugees we can see that these refuges might be in existence for a long time. It would be quite permissible for the refugees to build homes, start businesses and grow crops etc.
We might find that after a long time Syria becomes two large refugee camps with just a rump of the original Syria left. It might even be possible for one or more of these refugee camps to become self sufficient and become a new state.
This was originally written when the situation in Syria was simply between Assad and the people of Syria.
A more current example might be Somalia.
It might be said that this approach conflicts with current international law. One might say that if international law was of any value the situation in Syria, as it was, would have been resolved.
The real answer to this is, ironically, given to us by the action Turkey took to protect Turkish-Cypriots in Cyprus, which might have been illegal but works, has caused almost no casualties and to which no one has done anything significant.