Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Free the World

The United Nations has declared that 2015 is already “the deadliest year” for millions of migrants and asylum seekers fleeing war and persecution in their countries.
“Worldwide, one in every 122 humans is now either a refugee, internally displaced or seeking asylum,” says the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Developing countries now host over 86 percent of the world’s refugees, compared to 70 percent about 10 years ago.

Pakistan provides safe haven for millions of refugees fleeing a military conflict in the neighbouring country, Afghanistan. According to UNHCR, Pakistan has been hosting over 1.5 million registered Afghan refugees — the largest protracted refugee population globally—since the 1980s Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Currently, Turkey ranks at number one, hosting more than 1.7 million registered refugees, mostly from war-devastated Syria, with Pakistan at number two and Jordan ranking third with over 800,000 refugees.

Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi, a former journalist with a doctorate from the London School of Economics and who has had a distinguished career as Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the UK and Ambassador to the United States, told IPS, “It is the people of Pakistan who have shown exemplary generosity and compassion in embracing the Afghan refugees and extending help and support to them, and that too for over three decades.” She said: “We never tried to turn any back, nor did we erect barriers or walls but embraced them as part of our humanitarian duty.” Asked about lessons learnt, Ambassador Lodhi explained “Even as the current challenges are unprecedented in scope and nature, they call for responses that are anchored in the values of compassion and empathy and living up to our collective humanitarian responsibility.” She said these challenges also require a spirit of generosity and to never turn away from the needs of those who are so tragically displaced by circumstances of war, poverty or persecution. “This spirit should shape our policies, inform our strategies, as well as empower the institutions of global governance and create conditions that can address the drivers and underlying reasons for such displacements,” she added.

As refugees flee to Europe, many European countries have tried either to limit the number or bar them completely in what Peter Sutherland, a U.N. special representative for international migration, is quoted as saying is “a xenophobic response to the issue of free movement.”

According to the New York Times
“The British are blaming the French, the French are blaming the British, and both are blaming the European Union for an incoherent policy toward the thousands of people, many of them fleeing political horrors at home, who are trying to find jobs and a better future for themselves and their families in Europe.”

In contrast to Cameron, Austria’s Chancellor Werner Faymann said last week shelter for refugees was a human right the country was legally and morally obligated to provide. Austria, with a population of just 8.5 million, has received over 28,000 asylum claims in the first half of this year, slightly more than the total for 2014, compared with 25,000 claims in the UK last year.

Ambassador Lodhi pointed out that more than half of the world’s refugees today are children, a number that has risen steadily, up from 41 per cent in 2009, and the highest figure in over a decade. This only magnifies the scale of the tragedy at hand. “How has the international community responded to all of this?” she said. “By, frankly, not doing enough and not acting decisively in the face of this humanitarian emergency. The international community – to its shame – has ignored massive human suffering in the past. We are reminded of Rwanda and Srebrenica, among other crises.” And the current crisis of refugees could mark a new flag of shame, she declared.

Thousands of men, women and children have drowned in the Mediterranean. And in East Asia, she said, thousands of Rohingya Muslims have been reported dead or missing as they made their journeys of escape from persecution. While in South Africa lynch mobs have rampaged, hunting down immigrants from other parts of Africa. Off the coast of Australia, refugee boats are being forced to divert to countries with public services scarcely able to provide for their own people, much less more desperate people in dire straits.

We are all one family, the human family

No comments: