The Syrian Civil War is a conflict of which the consequences will be felt for generations. It began in March 2011 during the Arab Spring protests against Syrian President Basher al-Assad. Al-Assad and his father, Hafez, are Alawites, a minority Shi’a sect, ruling over the majority Sunni population of Syria since 1970. Rising income inequality as a result of Baathist statism, dissatisfaction with authoritarianism, increasing corruption, and a lack of jobs brought Syrians into the streets. There were nationwide demonstrations in major cities throughout Syria. In response, the Assad regime deployed the Syrian Army to quell the uprising with soldiers firing on demonstrators. After months of military sieges, the protests evolved into armed rebellion. On one side was the Baathist government of Assad, on the other were opposition forces composed of army defectors and civilian volunteers.
As the conflict grew, Al-Qaeda and ISIS made their presence known. Due to Al-Qaeda and ISIS involvement, the Syrian government lost large swaths of eastern Syria. Moreover, Hezbollah, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf Emirates, along with Russia and the United States, took interest in the sectarian struggle. By 2016, approximately 400,000 Syrians had been killed and more than 3.8 million Syrians fled as refugees.
The causes of the Syrian Civil War are publicly expressed as sectarianism, anti-authoritarianism, and poor economic and agricultural policies (Gleick, 2014; Lesch, 2017). Armed conflict can cause problems beyond regional instability, violence, and food insecurity, however. It can also impact the health of people living in the conflict-ridden countries, as well as people living in the countries hosting large numbers of migrants. The latter problem is the subject of this paper. With hundreds of thousands of people migrating from Syria into Europe, European governments are now facing challenges of how to deal with re-emerging diseases like cutaneous leishmaniasis. What impact will migration have on the presence of infectious diseases in the EU? How can EU member states simultaneously address security and public health concerns resulting from forced migration?
Drawing upon existing environmental security and public health literatures, we hypothesise that the increased prevalence of infectious diseases occurs as a result of public health breakdowns during and following armed conflict. Moreover, mass migration leads to the emerging and re-emerging of infectious diseases in a host country. While the Syrian refugee crisis has put real and imagined strains on EU member states’ immigration systems, a coordinated policy response, as outlined below, will mitigate the crisis and offer solutions for a way forward.
Following the completion of her doctoral degree, Blackburn worked as a postdoctoral researcher in the Field Disease Investigation Unit laboratory in the Washington State University Veterinary School of Medicine. During this appointment she worked on a variety of projects, including seasonal prevalence of E. coli bacterium in dairy and beef cattle, health differences between feeding dairy calves milk replacer rather than actual milk, and the impact of Bifidobacterium to the health development of dairy calves.
Dr. Blackburn is currently a postdoctoral researcher with the Scowcroft Institute for International Affairs in the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M conducting research on various aspects of pandemic disease policy and control.
Dr. Lenze held an Instructor position at the University of San Diego before moving to a position at Northern Arizona University.
Dr. Lenze is currently a Senior Lecturer at Northern Arizona State University where he teaches both undergraduate and graduate level classes in the Department of Politics & International Affairs. He published a book in 2016 titled, “Civil-Military Relations in the Muslim World.”