THE REFUGEE CRISISThe world is seeing the biggest influx of refugees and internally displaced people since World War II. A series of internal wars around the world, most notably but not only the Syrian civil war, have rendered more than 60 million people without a home or a safe place.?The crisis has overwhelmed governments around the globe with massive numbers of asylum seekers they are either unable or unwilling to take in. The country of Jordan, has taken in 600,000+ Syrian refugees, Jordan’s own population clocks up to just over 6 million. Turkey is now home to 2.5 million refugees with its own population at 76 million.
The crisis is also threatening the futures of international politicians. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, known to be a moderate leader, has come under heavy fire for accepting 1 million refugees. Far-right politician Hungarian President Viktor Orbán, found a boost in his standing after literally building a wall on the country’s border in order to keep out refugees. (Trump?! Is that you?)?The UN has been unable to support such an unprecedentedly colossal number of asylum seekers. With the wealthy countries showing reluctance to provide assistance, the refugee crisis doesn’t have an end in sight.?The following charts & maps depict the scale of the crisis, the reasons for it, and exactly how shattering the our apathy and antipathy towards the refugees, is.?(The Facts and Figures in this post are a very small part of my research for the project on the Syrian Refugee crisis. This report was completed in May, 2017 using the UNHCR report of 2016.
Since then there have been a few changes in the global scenario, namely the escalation of theRohingya Crisis.)The HIGHEST number since World War IIUNHCR, in a terrifying 2016 report, found that the number of displaced people – persons forced out of their place of origin due to conflict or lack of safety – has never been higher. The report deems this the biggest humanitarian crisis leading to refugees since WWII. Granted that the total population of the world is more now than it was then, but let’s look at the stakes. WWII was the most disastrous global conflict that took more than 60 million lives.
Today, no conflict is as deadly or as internationally inclusive as WWII, but many smaller ones are being fought in places that are easily ignored by majority of the developed world.Not JUST RefugeesThe current scenario is often called the “Refugee Crisis,” which is partly true but quite misrepresentative. Most of the displaced people are in fact IDPs, or Internally Displaced People – people who are forced from their homes but are still in their country of origin. Refugees and asylum seekers are people who are forced from their homes AND their country of origin.?We hear a lot of talk asking the “refugees to just go back,” this fact sheds light on WHY the refugees escaping their country can’t do so. A large number is stuck in their country of origin, often in huge underfunded camps. The situation in such countries is often so volatile – too poor, too violent, or both – for them to return home and lead normal lives?And because they can’t survive their own countries, they are fleeing abroad, making this an international crisis with global repercussions.
Syria + OTHER FactorsAlan Kurdi, one of the many Syrian children, was a victim of the civil war raging in his country. Nilüfer Demir’s photograph of his 3 year old body, washed ashore in Greece after a failed attempt to get to Canada, sparked a global concern for an otherwise ignored Syrian crisis.?So when we think of the Refugee Crisis, we think Syria.
It is indeed very true that Syria is the largest driver of refugees, but when we look at the bigger picture, it makes up for only one-third of the total 16 million refugees worldwide. The rest of the numbers are occupied by groups fleeing OTHER conflicts like – Afghan government fighting Taliban, ethnic violence verging on genocide in South Sudan, the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims by the Myanmarese government. (while Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi is their State Counsellor, a post similar to that of a Prime Minister)?In 1945, although in a messed up way, the world was united, with the end of WWII, the single-most prominent source of refugees came to an end, allowing the Allied Nations to work on resettlement and rehabilitation. Today, it is very unlikely that these unrelated conflicts will come to an end at the same time, implying that the refugee crisis is more complicated than just one country’s war.The NEIGHBORS The largest bulk of refugees do NOT go to affluent nations.This is because the countries wrecked by civil unrest and violence are usually geographically far from the wealthy Western nations. Refugees fleeing their country of origin do so with essentially nothing, and do not possess the connections or the resources needed to enter a distant rich nation.
They are so desperate for safety and basic human ammenities that they usually find refuge in the first RELATIVELY safer country, which generally is a nation that shares a border with their own country.These relatively safer countries have their own financial and social woes. These middle-income/poor nations become the ones being forced to take care of the refugees. As of 2016, Turkey was the largest host, providing a home to 2.
5 million Syrians. Lebanon, with its local population at 4.5 million, is a host to 1.1 million Syrians – increasing its total population by a quarter. Germany, with roughly the same population and a GDP 4.5 times that of Turkey, although the largest receiver of Syrian refugees in the developed part of the globe has still only taken 600,000 Syrians.
This goes to show that even the best efforts from the wealthy nations are sub-par compared to Syria’s neighbors, partly due to geography but mostly due to unwillingness and hostility.(under)Funded EffortsIdeally, international organisations are supposed to provide help to countries succumbing under pressure, like Lebanon or Turkey, where they have way more refugees than they can support. Practically though, that’s not the case.The chart above depicts the disparity in the UN requests for humanitarian relief – IDP camp maintenance, refugee resettlement, emergency medical supplies, and the like – and what it actually ends up receiving. In 2014-2015, when the crisis exacerbated, the funding didn’t improve nearly as much, in fact the gap increased. The UN received a little more than half of what they needed.
The consequences of such underfunded endeavours are borne by the refugees as well as their host countries. Amnesty in a 2015 report on refugees in Lebanon says, “at least 40% of refugees live in inadequate accommodation ‘including in makeshift shelters (garages, worksites, one room structures, unfinished housing) and informal settlements’ whilst ‘others are at risk of eviction or live in overcrowded apartments.'”Apart from being underfunded already, under Mr. Trump’s Presidency, the US government cut 40 percent of it’s funding for the UN, while also issuing another executive order that prevents “more” refugees into the US.
(USA has taken 14,000 refugees) The PERILOUS journey The consequence of regional as well as international failure is that the refugees are fleeing to the West. Between 2014 and 2015,the number of refugees escaping to Europe has quadrupled.The journey is fraught with danger.
Refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean, often do so in poorly constructed crafts. In 2016, between Jan and Oct, approximately 3,800 refugees lost their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean – A number that is much higher than all the Mediterranean deaths of 2015.Even when they get to shore, they’re not safe: In August 2015, A truck in Austria was crammed with refugees, 71 of whom suffocated to death.
The arrows shown on the map are by no means a secure route to travel – rather these are the roads of desperation.Once on the continent of Europe, the refugees usually enter the Balkans to enter EU through Croatia or Hungary,But a lot of EU members are actively working to keep out refugees or to control their movement across the union.The “Safe” HavenEurope either can’t or won’t provide the refuge that refugees seek.
The chart above shows the number of refugees granted asylum in various European nations in 2015. This number is clearly dwarfed compared to the number of refugees who APPLIED that year. (The approval process is quiet stringent and can take up to several years, so many of those who received asylum in 2015, must’ve applied before then)One aspect of this is, even if a country is willing, it “can’t.” Greece is a major entry port for refugees, but it has its own struggles with the financial crisis that it simply cannot process a huge number of applications. A direct consequence of this is that refugees have to live in makeshift refugee camps while awaiting their resettlement.
These camps are often inadequately equipped and absolutely do not have enough supplies for the increasing demands, Panos Navrozidis said the following while describing the situation at a Greek camp in Moria:”We have known that conditions at Moria do not meet humanitarian standards; we have known that Moria is overcrowded; we have known that thousands of people have been forced to live there, their lives on hold with limited recourse for up to 10 months now; and we have seen the ramifications of inadequate accommodation and preparations for winter.”Another aspect is that it “won’t.” Some countries, like Hungary, just won’t admit refugees, and with such ferocity that they build walls and strengthen their border patrol.There is a timeworn maxim often credited to a professional in the field of human evil, Joseph Stalin:”When one man dies, that’s a tragedy. When thousands die, that’s a statistic.”?The Charts and Figures above give us a bigger picture of the crisis, but large figures often feel distant and cold, and can even be a little comforting for they don’t feel like real people.
This is probably why most of the world was able to ignore the years old Syrian crisis or any ongoing civil wars for that matter.?Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis in 2011, THOUSANDS of people died while trying to get to Europe, but then in 2015, a three year Old’s body washed ashore near Turkey. He was Alan Kurdi, he drowned along with his mother and his 5 years old brother trying to reach Greece. Abdullah, his father, survived only to return to Syria to bury his family. When offered a prospect to settle in another country, he declined saying, “Now I don’t want anything. What was precious is gone.
“?Statistics are important when we talk about the refugee crisis, but let’s remember what is precious.?The UN High Commissioner for Refugees said, “Thousands of refugee parents are risking the lives of their children on unsafe smuggling boats primarily because they have no other choice.”?We have a mammoth humanitarian crisis. Well who’s to blame? Almost everyone.
The main perpetrator is obviously the Assad dictatorship, but blame also goes to China, Russia, Iran, and the USA. These countries are fighting their own proxy wars by providing indirect and sometimes even direct support to the various overlapping fractions involved in the unrest, while doing very little about the consequent refugee crisis.?The RICH Gulf Countries, have pledged major financial support, but have accepted ZERO refugees. Canada has seen a 30 percent decrement from the past decade in terms of refugee acceptance. Australia’s personal best when it comes to refugees, is absolutely ‘down under’ and probably in violation of the international law. The United States has accepted a very small number of refugees; their interests have instead shifted more towards nationalism and keeping out migrants.?The most prominent reason cited by politicians for denying refugees is that immigrants are more likely to commit crimes. But that is just an uninformed and untrue bias, what Mr.
Trump would call “Fake news.” There are several comprehensive reports that show that refugees or even first generation immigrants commit crimes at a far lower rate than the locals, in fact refugees and migrants contribute a lot to the local economy.?It’s utterly shameful when one reads the downright xenophobic responses of some of the most prominent world leaders, for instance when Hungary’s Prime Minister said that they needed to “Keep Europe Christian,” by keeping out Muslims.
Statements like these deny not only the multi-religious and multi-cultural history of Europe but also deny the international law that REQUIRES countries to accept and protect refugees irrespective of their religious beliefs.?”We need to take care of OUR own people and OUR problems,” is a common theme when discussing refugees, but what most people overlook is that we are a one species with a shared legacy in an overwhelmingly, intersected world, and all humans ARE OUR people.?John Green puts it quite powerfully, “When the oppressed and marginalized die BECAUSE they are oppressed and marginalized, the powerful are at fault. Three year old Alan Kurdi would be alive today if his family would have been welcomed by the European Union, or by Canada, or Australia, or the United States, or Brazil, or the list goes on and on. And I think the reason the world reacted so viscerally to that image of that dead boy on the beach is that instinctively, we all knew that his blood was on all of our hands.”?Apart from a legal obligation, we have moral one to the refugees.
We are in the current situation partly because we have deluded ourselves into believing that regional crisis have no global repercussions. But time and again we’ve been proven wrong and catastrophically misguided. For instance, the Ebola outbreak in Liberia is just Liberia’s issue, until its Nigeria’s, and then a French problem, and then a British problem, the list is endless.
?History, along with current affairs, keeps giving us painful reminders that the civil wars around the world are not just THEIR problem. Almost every state wreaked by a civil war has birthed evil that goes beyond its own borders. For instance, ISIS, that came out of the Syrian conflict, is a terror ORGANISATION that murder not only Syrians, but Americans, Turks, Brazilians, French, German, Ethiopians etc.?The UNHCR says, “…this massive flow of people will not stop until the root causes of their plight are addressed.
“THE ULTIMATE solution was given very clearly by a 13y/o Syrian boy, “Please help the Syrians. The Syrians need help now. You, you just stop the war, and we don’t go, we don’t want to go to Europe. Just stop the war.”?But until that happens, as their fellow humans, we have a moral and a legal responsibility towards the refugees, to provide a safe place to live, if that’s not entirely possible, then help financially by supporting the countries that are actually opening their doors.