Editorial - April/May 2017

James Lewis

As this edition of Global Insight went to press at the beginning of April, the United Nations Security Council was due to hold emergency talks following a suspected chemical attack in Syria’s Idlib province. According to UK-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the gas killed 72 people, including 20 children.

This is just the latest horror in a civil war that has now raged for more than six years, with no solution in sight. More than 250,000 people have been killed. Nearly five million Syrians have fled the country and more than six million are internally displaced. The devastating consequences will be with us for generations to come.

In recent years, Global Insight has spoken to leading figures central to addressing the tragedy. Kofi Annan was the UN Secretary General’s special envoy, charged with brokering peace in the early stages of the conflict. ‘The Syrian situation is a particularly difficult one and doesn’t lend itself, necessarily, to the kind of intervention that we saw in responsibility to protect,’ he told us a year-and-a-half ago. ‘But the pressure is still there, whether you do it under the Responsibility to Protect or under moral and legal obligations to protect people who are trapped in this situation to try and end the war. The international community of countries concerned have an obligation to make an effort.’

Also speaking to Global Insight at the same time, a major focus of former European Commission President José Manuel Barroso was the impact that the influx of refugees into Europe has had upon the continent. ‘Now the most urgent thing is the refugees. And I think basically the European institutions are doing the right thing. They are trying to have some burden-sharing, because those refugees cannot stay in the countries where they arrive, because simply there is not the capacity for Greece or even Italy,’ he said.

This aspect of the continuing human tragedy is the subject of our cover feature – ‘The unbalanced scales of refugee justice’. Reporting from Athens and Lesvos, Global Insight met the lawyers on the frontline of the refugee crisis who are attempting to help those in greatest need, those who’ve left their homelands, risking everything in search of a safer life.