WORLD REFUGEE CRISIS: AN ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM?

In this photo provided by UNHCR officials and taken on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013. Syrian refugees cross the border toward Iraq at Peshkhabour border point at Dahuk, 260 miles (430 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has set up an emergency transit camp in Irbil, where around 2,000 refugees are camping out and UNHCR officials say some thousands of refugees have been streaming into northern Iraq, many coming across a newly-constructed pontoon bridge over the Tigris River at Peshkhabour. (AP Photo/HO)

Syrian refugees cross the border toward Iraq at Peshkhabour border point at Dahuk, 260 miles (430 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq. (UNHCR Photo)

 

“…there is no shortcut solution to the current refugee problem. Humanity is in crisis – and there is no exit from that crisis other than the solidarity of humans.”  Zygmunt Bauman, 2016

As the opening quotation clarify, the world refugee crisis can only be addressed by the solidarity of humans. Sadly, this famous phrase doesn’t make sense to others. One is discouraged by the cultural insensitivity of other people, the hysterical fear of refugees resulting to gullibility of the host countries. Obviously, some people have limited outlook of world refugee crisis. Inspired by culture of individualism, they want to live exclusively in the present with no sense of history and shared responsibility. The current social life seems to encourage this. This kind of manipulation of the mainstream media is shocking, to say the least. It is disturbing the way the public is duped by distorted image and inaccurate information about the world refugee crisis. As we saw, though the journalist is free from government censorship, it is controlled, manipulated, and distorted by big business interests. Aside from this, the rise of “EU’s far-right” is growing in power and influence and making foreign policy makes more and more difficult. I was speechless to hear some Christian organisations justified and supported those anti-immigrants and pro-war policies in the name of “Christian political realism”.

Further, you may have heard it said before that refugee crisis would be one of the global largest problems. Refugee crisis is a global phenomenon from time immemorial. In the celebration of World Refugee Day in June 20th, the UN Refugee Agency report released:

The report, entitled Global Trends, noted that on average 24 people were forced to flee each minute in 2015, four times more than a decade earlier, when six people fled every 60 seconds. The detailed study, which tracks forced displacement worldwide based on data from governments, partner agencies and UNHCR’s own reporting, found a total 65.3 million people were displaced at the end of 2015, compared to 59.5 million just 12 months earlier.

Further, opinion about the acceptability of refugees divides East, West Europeans, and North Americans. In the modern age, what does it mean to be a refugee? The 1951 convention to the Status of Refugees define the word refugee as:

…any person who…owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it (Article 1, 1951 refugees Convention).

However, the legal definition was evolving and attempted to expand that includes the following:

  • persons fleeing from persecution due to sexual orientation;
  • persons on the move because of natural disaster induced by climate change; and,
  • persons displaced for economic reasons, commonly known today as “economic migrants.”

Like EU, Asia has had a refugee crisis, specifically ASEAN region, like the 2015 Rohingya refugee crisis. Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School confirmed and writes, from military rule, Sein’s administration, and the establishment of Rakhine State, Rohingyas has been discriminated and persecuted in all spheres of life including, denial of citizenship, forced displacement, forced labor, religious persecution, marriage restrictions, population control, arbitrary detention, sexual violence, restrictions on freedom of movement. Today, Rohingyas continuously suffers from physical, psychological, symbolical, and institutional violence. According to Amnesty International 2015/16 report:

Authorities failed to address rising religious intolerance and incitement to discrimination and violence against Muslims, allowing hardline Buddhist nationalist groups to grow in power and influence ahead of the November general elections. The situation of the persecuted Rohingya deteriorated still further. The government intensified a clampdown on freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly. Reports of abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law in areas of internal armed conflict persisted. Security forces suspected of human rights violations continued to enjoy near-total impunity.

Such reports were shared region wide, as officials proves that Rohingyas continue to be deprived from their basic human rights, ASEAN member-states slow to response. Certainly, this has been an elephant in the ASEAN region. It seems ASEAN member states was guilty of committing an act of “sin of omission”. This is a clear challenge to ASEAN member states and to the global community at large. ASEAN member states should address these issues accordingly and persuade its member states to comply with ASEAN aspirations and goals, specifically as “people-oriented organisation”. Generally, many problems need to be recognized first as a global problem as to originate some type of decision-making leading to international law-making and cooperation. It might be possible that the fate of Rohingya Muslim minority group lies on the collective action of ASEAN member states. Unfortunately, it is observable that ASEAN member states were tepid in response to the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslim minority group. ASEAN member states should persuade and put pressure on the Myanmar government to take action and be held accountable.

In the celebration of World Refugee Day in June 20th, the United Nations Refugee Agency executes the petition to all governments to uphold:

  • ensure every refugee child gets an education;
  • ensure every refugee family has somewhere safe to live; and,
  • ensure every refugee can work on learn new skills to make a positive contribution to their community.

Being known for hospitable culture, during the outbreak of Rohingya refugee crisis in 2015, the Philippines was the first country in Southeast Asian region that offers a refuge to desperate Rohingyas. As one of the signatories of 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and of the 1967 Protocol (New York Protocol), Philippine government proves its sincere commitment as a sanctuary to refugees.

Despite the remarkable complexity of world refuge crisis, the global Christian community should stood up with refugees and immigrants. Although the global Christian community is divided and reluctant to engage this public debate. As a moral community, our humanity requires the order, passion, and efficient intelligibility to build a just and humane society. To make more concrete global Christian community should be an out-spoken and contributor to public policy debate of world refugee crisis. As Archbishop Emeritus Anders Wejryd, WCC Europe president expressed during the Lunteren Ecumenical Conference in 14-16 of June:

“We hoped that the churches would be leaders, out-spoken and listened to, giving reasons why human rights are expressed the way they are and that the commandment to love your neighbour is supposed to be stretched out in time and space.”

In conclusion, an appeal to our humanity, Pope Francis writes:

“The Church stands at the side of all who work to defend each person’s right to live with dignity, first and foremost by exercising the right not to emigrate and to contribute to the development of one’s country of origin. This process should include, from the outset, the need to assist the countries which migrants and refugees leave.  This will demonstrate that solidarity, cooperation, international interdependence and the equitable distribution of the earth’s goods are essential for more decisive efforts, especially in areas where migration movements begin, to eliminate those imbalances which lead people, individually or collectively, to abandon their own natural and cultural environment.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Permanent link to this article: https://peacebuilderscommunity.org/2016/07/world-refugee-crisis-an-elephant-in-the-room/

3 comments

    • Vincent on 03.August.2016 at 2238

    I love your insights about the condition of the refugees.

    • PJ Minoza on 02.August.2016 at 2343

    Thanks for sharing your valuable insights sir Hadje. There is a common thread in these events – in my POV, it is a crisis of faith, not in God, but towards mankind. If Nietzsche in his lifetime explored the meaning of the death of God, and Foucault suggested the Death of Man, are we living in a time where the question “has multiculturalism failed?” is a theme about contemporary culture? (the death of multiculturalism). Your reflection paper made me ponder about this.

    • Luz on 02.August.2016 at 1849

    Thnx for sharing this thoughts😀

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