Thursday, June 18, 2015

A looming refugee crisis

June 18, 2015
A looming refugee crisis
A new report by Amnesty International on the global refugee crisis should prove a wake-up call for the international community. 'The Global Refugee Crisis: A Conspiracy of Neglect' says the world is facing the worst situation on this front since the Second World War, with the number of people forcibly displaced from their homes exceeding 50 million. It's not really a surprise given the serial collapse of states in West Asia and Africa, and reports of persecution of vulnerable communities in several countries. What is more appalling is the apathy of the world's powerful leaders towards this humanitarian problem. The Amnesty report rightly says that the international community's response to the refugee crisis has been "a shameful failure". Syria is a case in point. More than half of its population has been displaced by a civil war, and some four million people have fled the country. The burden is almost entirely on Syria's neighbours such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, while richer nations across the Mediterranean have turned a blind eye to it. The European Union's decision to limit rescue operations in the Mediterranean has led to a dramatic rise this year in the number of people who have drowned during boat journeys. The U.S., a country proud of its tradition of welcoming people from foreign lands, has accepted fewer than 1,000 Syrian refugees in the past four years. The schemes of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that is meant to address the problem remain under-funded.
People flee their homes to escape desperate situations. If Syrians and Libyans are fleeing deadly wars, those from Myanmar and Eritrea are trying to escape long-standing persecution. Resettling such vulnerable people is a global humanitarian obligation. But sadly, in the current world order this responsibility is not evenly distributed. Powerful nations, which often send bombers to poorer countries to "solve" their domestic problems, as the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation did in Libya in 2011, are not as forthcoming when they face refugee crises and poverty. At present, almost 86 per cent of all refugees are in the developing countries, which lack the infrastructure and resources to tackle the challenge. A more coordinated approach is needed to address the problem. Richer countries in the West and the Asia Pacific should find more room for refugees from stricken lands, in order to share the burden more equitably. And, agencies such as the UNHCR that deal with millions of refugees should be sufficiently funded to fulfil their missions. More important, there have to be more meaningful efforts, driven not merely by geopolitical calculations but by moral, humanitarian conviction, to solve the world's crises. That could be the first step towards addressing the causes of the problem.

COVA Note: Some Shocking Facts:
There are more refugees due to conflicts in the world today than even during the Second World War.  Number of refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) exceeded 51.2 million in June 2014[1] and on an average, 32,200 individuals were forced to flee their homes each day at the end of 2013 (or 11.75 million in a year)-half of them children mostly travelling alone[2].  The cost of supporting refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) has increased by 267 percent since 2008 to $128 billion in 2014 as the numbers of uprooted people increased[3].

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