With Nigeria, South Sudan and Burundi, and the
With the plight of Rohingyas coming up in the news, and the endless agony being faced by those displaced as a result of the conflict in the Middle-East and Africa, I was motivated to undertake this study. I did not stick to only one conflict zone, and chose to briefly study the conflicts all over the world, because all other conflicts are not getting enough media attention, with only a few being in focus.24 people per minute – this is the number of people that flee their homes fearing persecution and war, in hopes of a better and safer place elsewhere. This number amounts to 34,000 people per day. This means, every day, 34,000 new people get characterised as refugees.
A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries. Another term we all hear today is Internally Displaced Person (IDP). An internally displaced person (IDP) is a person who has been forced to flee his or her home for the same reason as a refugee, but remains in his or her own country and has not crossed an international border. Unlike refugees, IDPs are not protected by international law or eligible to receive many types of aid. (N.A., N.A.)
This phenomenon is not novel and the current refugee crisis is definitely not unprecedented. The following is a timeline of the various refugee crises the world has seen since the First World War.One in every 113 people in the world is a refugee (Wildman, 2017)
The current refugee crisis is the worst the world has witnessed since the World Wars. The conflicts in the Middle-East, especially Syria, Iraq and Yemen, the civil unrest in Central African Republic, Nigeria, South Sudan and Burundi, and the social turmoil in the Rakhine province in Myanmar has contributed the most to the ongoing refugee crisis in the world.
2014 was the worst year in terms of the refugee crisis. About 42,500 people fled their homes every day. This number is four times than that in 2010 (Helen Clark, 2016)
Today, the number of refugees amounts to 65 million, roughly the size of six Swedens (Slaughter, 2015). In 2016, over 7500 migrants died while fleeing their countries (Haque, 2017). In the first half of 2017 alone, more than 2000 people have lost their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean to get to better lands (Khasru, 2017).
Almost 5 million of these refugees originate from Syria (Wildman, 2017). Other war-torn countries from which refugees originate are Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan, etc. These refugees seek asylum in countries like Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, etc. Middle East and North Africa hosts 39 percent of refugees, Africa hosts 29 percent, Americas host 18 percent and Asia and the Pacific hosts 14 percent. Germany, Hungary and Sweden host the most number of refugees in Europe (Ros, 2017).
All countries have an estimated number of refugees that will enter into their country. Canada, Germany and Norway are at the top of the list, receiving and welcoming 250 percent, 144 percent and 118 percent of their estimates, respectively. The countries at the bottom of this list are USA, Spain and France, all accepting a mere 10 percent. Japan, Russia and South Korea accepted zero percent of these estimates (Ros, 2017).Some international organisations that work towards helping alleviate this crisis are the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and International Organisation for Migration (IOM). These agencies have done tremendous work so far. They are funded by governments and inter-governmental organisations. However, these agencies face a lot of challenges. Talking about the UNHCR – it does not have broad enforcement powers and relies of government cooperation, which is not always guaranteed in conflict zones. Also, its communication with refugees on ground is inconsistent. It heavily depends on donations. It was underfunded by $10.3 billion in 2015 (Ros, 2017). Like the UNHCR, the IOM also suffers from these problems – a mismatch between its mission and implementation, its budget, etc. (Khasru, 2017). Governmental cooperation and better funding are essential for the proper functioning of these organisations which in turn will help assuage the crisis faced by millions of refugees.
These agencies depend on the efforts taken by the government of various countries. However, these countries themselves are not doing their fair share for helping the people. The costs that European countries spend on the refugees that enter their country is being reported as Official Development Assistance (ODA), a measure developed by the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) used to track international aid spending. In 2015, the EU’s DAC members spent $9.7 billion of their ODA budget on refugees in their country, and only $3.2 billion of their budget on war-torn countries (Silva, 2017). If countries continue to divert their funds this way, it will not help to alleviate matters.One lesson to be learnt from the refugee crises that is common since the First World War till today is that wars are inevitable. Conflicts among nations have grown to a new high this century. Wars, famines, persecution and other circumstances have forced millions of people to be displaced over the last century.
Looking at how the refugee crises was dealt with in the past century, we can see that a better approach needs to be adopted. At first, after World War 1, the League of Nations was established. This institution failed to provide adequate aid to all those 8 million refugees that were displaced. Then came the World War 2, after which the United Nations was established. The UN did a fair job in alleviating the problem of the refugees and it still continues to work today. However, the contribution of the UN and other similar institutions is not enough. These institutions lack funds and enforcement powers necessary for them to function at their best level.
Even though integration of global communities has occurred over the past few decades, the governments of these countries need to work more in order to unite further. A better integration of the governments and communities of the world will ensure that the refugee crisis does not deteriorate further.
The global community cannot do much to prevent wars and conflicts from occurring. All we can do is provide better aid and be welcoming to those suffering during this crisis.Taking into consideration the authors’ opinions and interpretations from this study, the following recommendations are proposed: –
1. Better treatment of refugees – All the refugees today are given humanitarian aid, which seems like a good option considering the current situation. However, this aid does not do enough to help the refugees. They are only provided with the basic necessities like shelter, food, sanitation, etc. However, not much is done for their development. Refugees must be given developmental aid apart from the basic humanitarian aid. These refugees are treated as passive recipients of aid without the ability to contribute productively to the economy of the host country (Helen Clark, 2016). This must be stopped. With proper education and training, these refugees will definitely be able to contribute to the growth of the host country’s economy. For this purpose, NGOs involved in educating the under-privileged can take initiatives to educate the refugees as well.
2. Blend funds – This requires creation of a model which blends public, private and charitable contributions. Private-sector standards should be followed while allocating these funds which will ensure effective and efficient mobilisation of funds. This model has already been put to use – a World Economic Forum survey found that every $1 invested in such initiatives attracted as much as $20 of private investments (Deva, 2017)
3. Make international organisations more powerful – International organisations working to find a solution to the refugee crises such as UNHCR, IOM, etc need to be given more power and funds to function. These organisations lack the funds to carry out their intended operations in a proper manner. Apart from this, they also lack human capital on the ground to address the plight of the refugees and provide them with necessary help. Another problem faced by these agencies is that they are not well integrated around the world. They heavily depend on government integration which may not always be possible, especially among conflict-torn countries.
4. Develop areas of permanent residence – Conflicts all around the world do not seem to end. Many of the refugees fleeing their home countries do not wish to go back, given the fear of war and persecution. They wish to seek asylum in and become permanent residents of safer countries. A majority of those displaced spend decades and lifetimes in exile (Helen Clark, 2016). The only solution to this is to develop dedicated areas around the world that can house these refugees permanently. This has already been initiated by a Naguib Sarawis, an Egyptian billionaire and the owner of two Greek islands who plans to develop them, by employing the refugees themselves, in order to house them (Slaughter, 2015). If Saudi Arabia can build a $500 billion city to house robots, the least the countries around the world can do is develop areas to house the refugees in distress.
It is now time for us all to integrate our actions and work in unity to aid the anguishing refugees.