Refugee crisis in a selfish world: More pain, no gain

Dhaka,  Thu,  08 December 2016
Published : 14 Oct 2016, 19:28:32

Refugee crisis in a selfish world: More pain, no gain

The UN's acceptance of Bangladesh's proposal at the behest of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for creating "Global Compact on Migration" to improve migration governance, especially during emergencies, should auger well, writes Marksman
The proverb-'no pain, no gain'-has been turned  upside down. The saying basically meant that if you have exercised due diligence to achieve something you should have got it. Particularly, when driven by a war-ravaged situation or ethno-religious persecution in your own  country you seek  protection/asylum as  refugees in another state under the 1951 UN refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol   you  should  have it. That has been the normal expectation, but not so anymore . You have a right to be sheltered; yet, that internationally ratified obligation appears to have  lost moral force with the wealthy powerful countries of the world.   

You may have endured  excruciating pains huddled in  overloaded rafts adrift in the Mediterranean Sea, or may  have trekked hostile terrains made the more unwelcome by barbed-wire contraptions, and yet you land in shags wallowing in slush or half-shivering in cold under make-shift tents if you were luckier.

 At a time when xenophobia, scare-mongering and straight-faced refusals by states to share the burden of refugees anymore kick in, we see the ramifications of world powers  burying their heads in the sands in the face of an impending catastrophe.   

In this backdrop, Amnesty International (AI)  released a report  last Wednesday titled "Tackling the global refugee crisis: from shirking to sharing responsibility." While slamming  what it  called the selfishness of wealthy nations  the report focused on  a startling yet least discussed  trend: Only ten countries of the world accounting for 2.5 percent of  world Gross Domestic Product (GDP) are hosting more than half of the world's refugees currently estimated at one percent of the global population.

According the UNHCR statistics, the ten countries in order of refugee intakes -- ranging from 2.7 million through 1.5 million to about half a million-are Jordan, Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Chad.

Secretary General of the Amnesty International Salil  Shetty  flagged off  the fact that such a  small number of countries 'have  been left to do far too much just because they are neighbours to a crisis.'

Rich countries cannot just wash their hands off the problem by sending aid money in. That will be even   less than  lip service  to the victims of a man-made  disaster which is obviously not of their own making. Thus,  it is their moral  duty  not just to play host to the refugees  but also address the root cause of what in the first place  drove them from out of their homelands.

 Such countries should not allow their narrow self-interest to let the problem fester like a wound inflicted on a swathe of humanity. For it may boomerang on them to the liking of the ISIS or Daesh. In fact, the advanced countries need be led by  enlightened  national  interest to bring to  an early resolution of the snow-balling  international refugee crisis.

One can only, therefore, endorse AI secretary general Shetty's recipe: "If everyone of the wealthiest countries were to take in refugees in proportion to their size, wealth and unemployment rate, finding a home for more of the world's refugees would be an eminently solvable challenge."

That said, when we survey the horizon to accommodate the refugees we are met with shrinking spaces. Angela Merkel finds herself on the political firing line in Germany because of her generosity with the first wave of migrants. In France, President Francois Hollande is cornered in the face of terrorist attacks ironically by French citizens of Middle-East origin. Le Pen of the far-right National Front Party with its Islamophobia plank is on an ascent entering the second round of presidential election in France. Britain appears content with sheltering and absorbing a good number of unaccompanied children. This highlights the miseries of children and women who are the worst victims of wars and armed ethnic or sectarian conflicts.

Turn to East Europe, Hungarians  going in for a referendum on burden-sharing of refugees returned a 'no' verdict. Since, however, the turn-out was less than the mandatory 50 per cent, the result could'nt  be applicable. Hungary, if I recollect correctly, has  made it clear that it is a Christian country implying one hopes not, given the esteem in which Christian values are held, that Muslim  are  unwelcome.

At any rate though, Poland, Czechoslovak Republic, Rumania  look set to follow suit.

Let's remind ourselves of the fulcrum of the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol. The Convention, signed up to by 144  state parties, is 'the key legal document that forms the basis of UNHCR's work. It defines the term 'refugee' and outlines the right of the displaced as well as the legal obligation of the states to protect them.'

Article 3 states that "no contracting State shall discriminate against a refugee within its territory on account of his race, religion or country of origin, or because he is a refugee provided that the Article shall not be deemed as absolving a  refugee from observing the conditions under which he was admitted to such territory." In  essence, you cannot turn your back to entry .

Another  provision in the Convention adds, "The turning  back of a refugee to the frontier of the country where his  life or liberty is threatened on account of  his race, religion, nationality or political opinions, if such opinions are not in conflict with the principles set forth in the Universal Declaration Charter would be tantamount to delivering him into the hands of his persecutors."

In this context, the UN's   acceptance  of Bangladesh's  proposal at the behest of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for creating "Global Compact on Migration" to improve migration governance, especially  during  emergencies, should auger well.

Given the urgency of such an updated framework agreement, the negotiations, set on a two-year trajectory, need to be highly prioritised and fast-tracked.

safarihi43@gmail.com
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