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.