Monday, October 10, 2016

The name of human you cannot retain


Much as has been said and written about the global refugee crisis but there is always more to add. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), says 24 people were forced to flee their homes every minute in 2015, with the total number of displaced people hitting a record 65.3 million. Over 40 million of them were on the move within their own countries, while more than 21 million were refugees. The number of refugees is increasing, signifying the failure to sort out the problem. The world is facing the greatest refugee crisis since World War II and there is widespread agreement that wealthy countries are not sharing the burden. Without a doubt, the world has failed the refugees.

The crisis is out of control and nations are blaming each other. Politicians have met at summit after summit about the crisis, most of which end inconclusively. The measures adopted to address this world l problem are scarce and inadequate. Should millions of at-risk people be abandoned or pushed back to places where they are subject to danger? Foot-dragging is what characterizes the policy of most governments, each waiting for neighboring states to take the first step. So far, most of what has been done have been directed towards keeping refugees back, rather than admitting and resettling them. Slamming their doors on refugee populations has turned out to be the modus operandi of most governments. With the winter already knocking on the door, millions of vulnerable people are living in dismal conditions, forsaken by an unsympathetic world. The New York Summit for Refugees and Migrants held last month has been a failure. The summit was more about tightening border control and keeping refugees off Europe's doorstep than about proposing mechanisms to offer them protection. The New York Declaration has been criticized by human rights advocates and bodies, for allowing child detentions under certain circumstances, and for stating that vulnerable migrants may need “assistance” but not “protection.”

None of the draconian methods adopted by governments seem to be deterring distressed populations. The refugee outflow will not stop. Torn between staying in their motherland and living a merciless life dictated by war, persecution, famine and poverty, or setting off on a perilous journey towards an unknown future, many opt for the latter. Closing one border will only result in people amassing at another frontier pushing to get through. Europe remains deeply divided over how to treat the refugees. Politics across Europe has been polarized over how to tackle the problem with far-right anti-refugee parties becoming more prominent and vocal.

International media have been giving extensive coverage to Europe of more than one million refugees pushing through its borders. Nevertheless, little is said about developing countries, which have been taking in the bulk of refugees – a staggering 86 percent. Ten countries are sheltering more than half of the world's refugees and they are among the low- and middle-income nations. Jordan, Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Chad are hosting more refugees than the rest of the world combined.

Some of the "richer" countries boast about their charitable aid. But little is known about how much each donor pledges and when and how these commitments are fulfilled. London hosted the 'Supporting Syria and the Region' summit. Reports said last month that only one-sixth of the much-hyped $10 billion pledged (about $6 billion of it for 2016) had materialised. A donors’ conference hosted by US President Barrack Obama in September raised a total of $4.5 billion. The summit promised education for one million refugee children. But UNHCR says 3.7 million refugee children are out of school. Assuming that all the funding pledges made will be committed, the need is obviously much greater than is being addressed. Add to that these children’s need for nutrition, healthcare and protection against abuse and violence, and you'll arrive at the conclusion that the world is decades behind in efforts to resolve the crisis. The EU refugee quota plan to resettle 160,000 people across the bloc has already fallen to pieces. European countries are bickering over who should host the refugees and refugees have been caught in the crossfire of this endless diplomacy.

Hungary has erected a razor-wire fence along its southern border to block crowds heading towards Northern and Western Europe from Serbia and Croatia. It is now planning a second stronger fence as well as a larger border guard force. Bulgaria, too has built a fence.
Austria has toughened controls at the border with Italy, and passed a law authorizing the government to turn away refugees if their numbers pose a risk to national security.
The Netherlands, a country with a tough refugee policy, has seen the rise of the ultra-conservative anti-immigration far-rights.
Switzerland has closed its borders to refugees and sought to deport asylum seekers to their first transit country in Europe.
The Scandinavians, likewise, have reintroduced border controls.
Britain has called for the enforcement of the Dublin Regulation: A law which controversially stipulates that asylum seekers have to stay or be sent back to the first country they arrived. Such an approach would block refugees traveling onwards from Greece, Italy and France to Britain. Greece and Italy are already buckling under the pressure of refugees trapped in limbo. It will take the European countries 18 years only to relocate the over 66,000 refugees in Greece across the EU at the current rate. Refugee reception centers in Italy are notorious for overcrowding, lack of healthcare and poor hygiene. Most refugees prefer to leave for Germany, France and the UK.
France is planning to clear the notorious camp ‘Jungle’ by the yearend and relocate the refugees to other centers. This has drawn warnings from rights organizations and UNICEF about the fate of 1,000 unaccompanied children who might be targeted by traffickers.
Australia - shamed in the eyes of the international community by the scale of abuse and inhumane treatment at its refugee detention camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru -has done its share by sending gunboats to turn back refugee boats and encouraging the EU to follow its lead.
America continues its policy of deportation of undocumented migrants.

Millions are running for their lives, and to do so, they are risking their lives. This year alone, more than 3,200 people have drowned while crossing the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy. The International Organization for Migration believes that the actual number of deaths is twice as high because of under-reporting. They estimate that refugee fatalities will top 10,000 this year. Across the world, 5,700 refugees have died or went missing on irregular routes since September 2015. Oxfam says one person has died almost every 80 minutes since the start of 2016.

Human mobility is the side effect of phenomena such as war, famine, unemployment, lack of opportunity, instability, drug-related gang violence, and economic crisis. As long as these phenomena continue to exist, forced migration won't go away. Refugees embark on long journeys through land and sea. Those who are lucky enough end up in overcrowded ramshackle camps in Turkey, Greece or France – not the sanctuary most expected. Many become the victims of violence and sexual abuse. In many of these camps, there is not enough food to eat, and necessities such as hygiene, healthcare and education are considered a luxury rather than a basic right. Refugees have also been the target of hate-attacks ranging from assaults, attempted murder, arson and property damage throughout Europe. Time is running out for millions of people.

Human beings are members of a whole,
In creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain,
Other members uneasy will remain.
If you have no sympathy for human pain,
The name of human you cannot retain.
Sa'adi, the Persian, 
13thC poet and philosopher 

Those same words adorn the entrance to the UN Hall of Nations:

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