Friday, June 28, 2019

Refugees and Migrants - A Stroke of Luck

By WHO estimates, 68 million people have been forcibly displaced across borders. Developing countries host 86% of the population of migrants who have suffered forced displacement and the UN estimates suggest 71 million people worldwide fled war in 2018 alone.

Canada, a country with a much smaller population, welcomed more refugees than the USA in 2018, with 28,100 refugees settled in Canada compared with 22,900 in the USA. Yet, the USA marked World Refugee Day by the acting head of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services sending an email to asylum officers urging them to “stem the crisis and better secure the homeland”.

In the USA a government lawyer argued that detained migrant children were not entitled to soap or toothbrushes under a law requiring them to be kept in “safe and sanitary” conditions. Children recently lost access to legal aid, classes, and recreational activities for “budgetary reasons”. There are 50 000 people detained in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities. 24 migrants have died under ICE custody so far.

Accepting refugees and allowing them to live freely is itself lifesaving and of demonstrable economic and social benefit to a country. Forbidding them is damaging to us all.

Former German president Christian Wulff said this week, regarding Germany's resettlement of 900 000 migrants at the height of the crisis in 2015, that “the refugee move will be a stroke of luck in German history”. Wulff stated that, in a few years, Germany will look back on this decision with pride. The effect could be as pronounced as German reunification in the 1990s.

The health, safety, and wellbeing of vulnerable populations must be uppermost in the mind of anyone who is a health professional. The brutal treatment of refugees and migrants in many situations worldwide should be condemned in the strongest possible terms.

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