Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Testimony :: Hon. Michael C. Burgess
Commisioner - Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe


Congressman Michael C. Burgess, M.D.

Opening Statement

Helsinki Commission

Hearing:  “Fleeing to Live: Syrian Refugees in the OSCE Region”

June 13, 2013


Thank you Mr. Chairman for the recognition and for calling this hearing today.


In January of 2011, when Syrian protestors took to the streets demanding democracy and the ouster of dictator Bashar al-Assad, they were one of last countries to participate in what has been known as the Arab Spring. This revolutionary wave of demonstrations was a historic one as oppressive and totalitarian governments were toppled giving way to liberty, freedom and the rule of law.


However, a full two and a half years later, the civil war in Syria drags on and on with no end in sight.  In fact, just this morning, United Nations' human rights office said that almost 93,000 people have been confirmed killed in the Syrian conflict, with half as much thought to be civilians.  


Equally as alarming is that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees claims that as many as 5 million Syrians have been displaced within the country and 1.6 million had fled to neighboring countries to escape the carnage.  This is beyond a humanitarian disaster.


It should not be surprising that OSCE member states such as Jordan and Turkey have graciously opened their borders and taken in hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees.  To be sure, as states that have sworn an oath to a peaceful approach to conflict management and post-conflict rehabilitation, these countries have exemplified the practice of OSCE members.


However, accepting these refugees has not come without consequence. An average of 8,000 Syrians are crossing the border into surrounding states each day, putting an increasing political and financial strain on the countries that have accepted them. Indeed, nations making up the Syria Regional Response Plan have requested almost $3 billion, including Lebanon and Jordan that have requested a combined $1.5 billion. 


The world has responded.  Nations such as the United Kingdom and Germany have given hundreds of millions of dollars. The United States has also had no such difficulty acting, giving more than $500 million in humanitarian aid. 


This war must end.  And the United States, together with its international partners in the OSCE, will continue to pledge support towards the Syrian refugees who stood up the face of a tyrant and demanded their freedom.


Again, Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing.  I also thank the witnesses for appearing here and am interested in their views as to what actions the United States needs to take going forward to end the refugee crises.