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Syria: Interview with Mathias Mogge

Flow of refugees not slowing down

In an interview, Mathias Mogge reports on the current situation in Syria.

(April 2014) The situation in Syria is becoming increasingly critical - fear and terror have become a part of every day life. Mathias Mogge in an interview with the Catholic News Agency (KNA) about his visit to the Turkish city of Gaziantep. This is the location from which Welthungerhilfe is coordinating support efforts for Syrian civil war refugees.

KNA: Mr. Mogge, what is Welthungerhilfe's focus in Syria?

Mogge: Definitely the distribution of food aid. Resources in Syria have been depleted. The agricultural industry is facing collapse. And a lack of precipitation has only worsened the situation. All these factores have led to a drastic increase in prices for basic food items.

KNA: The founder or the organisation "Grünhelme" (green helmets), Rupert Neudeck, recently suggested the establishment of an air corridor to get food to the people. How realistic is this approach?

Mogge: It's actually not a bad idea. But deliveries by truck are still working at this time. Not just for us, but other aid agencies and the United Nations are also transporting great quantities of food from neighbouring countries to Syria - like an air corridor on the road, so to speak.

Mathias Mogge visits Syrian refugees. They hardly own anything.
Mathias Mogge visits Syrian refugees. They hardly own anything.
Mathias Mogge reports that despite fear and terror, the local staff is very committed.
Mathias Mogge reports that despite fear and terror, the local staff is very committed.
Daily life far away from home: belts used for construction are turning to swings.
Daily life far away from home: belts used for construction are turning to swings.

KNA: How does the fighting in the country affect the work of aid personnel?

Mogge: In our project regions, it is not so much the fighting that is creating problems for us and the local population. It is the constant terror resulting from an ever changing array of occupiers. Our project coordinator in Syria is located in Manbij, about 100 km south-east of Gaziantep. He told us that it is the radical Islamists that are controlling the situation at the moment - but they could be gone again in two weeks and be replaced by government troops or orther groupings.

KNA: Is it even possible to plan meaningful aid strategies with Islamist occupiers?

Mogge: That can only be done with domestic staff and together with local aid agencies. These people are very committed and very well educated. But they also live in daily fear of torture and kidnapping.

KNA: What about the expatriate aid staff?

Mogge: They cannot go to Syria right now. In addition to the coordinator, another ten locals are also working directly for us. They always manage to cross the green border into Turkey and maintain contact with our office here. But that is extremely dangerous.

KNA: How does the situation in Turkey look now - what can Syrian refugees expect once they arrive?

Mogge: Turkey is very committed to providing professional support and has set up 25 tent villages in the border region. But the flow of refugees continues unabated. That is why many new arrivals are distributed over the neighbouring communities.

KNA: That sounds like grounds for new conflict.

Mogge: Unfortunately that may be true. In some locations we have already noticed some resentment towards foreigners because of the large number of refugees. Such small observations at the periphery show that Turkey's ability to accept refugees is slowly reaching its limits.

KNA: So diplomatic initiatives to solve the conflict would be even more important in this context...

Mogge: But they are nowhere to be found. Russia, which plays a key role in the conflict, has virtually disappeared as a player due to the crisis in the Crimea. Therefore I cannot imagine just where a timely solution for the Syrian conflict would come from at the political level. The situationis a complete mess, and extremely frustrating. We are preparing ourselves for a long-term commitment, and are planning e.g. schools and educational measures for the children and youths who have fled the country.

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