Refugee Crisis in Today’s World
Till the end of 2015,over 4,384,512 Syrians fled their country, and are staying in near and far away countries. Also, 578,050 Iraqis were driven from their homes for various reasons and fearing their safety chose different destinations. Aside from Iraq and Syria both of which are involved in all out wars against terrorism and extremism, countries such as Afghanistan and Libya too have experienced migration and refugee crisis in varous forms, have all eperienced such as a change in their demographics or being temporary or fulltime hosts to refugees. Till the end of 2015, at least 2771 people lost their lives trying to cross the Mediterranian Sea.
With the start of the New Year, thousands of people have taken upon themselves and their families the dangers of a tiresome journey through land and sea, in the hope of finding safe refuge in Europe.
The EU who tried to take in refugees in the beginning of the crisis, is closing the door to thousands of migrants through adopting new laws. And while still suffering from the effects of the past economic crises, the EU has still not managed to create a coordinated mechanism for accepting refugees, and the member countries do not have the inclination to do anything in this regard, either. Even countries like Germany and Austria who initially welcomed refugees with open arms, today are being more cautious in this regard. Europe is facing a serious challenge today, a challenge that on the one hand targets thousands of refugees and on the other hand its arrow is targeting international laws, to which Mankind has gone through countless ups and downs to achieve. Human rights principles, the 1951 Convention on Refugees Rights being one of them.
Middle East’s refugee problem history
Crisis region neighbouring countries in the Middle East have played host to refugees for some years. Countries such as Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon are not able to be hosts without NGOs’ and international support, because these countries do not have enough economic stability and power to support the refugees and this issue alongside other challenges, results in a secondary migration of these refugees towards Europe via land and sea.
For many years, many countries of the world – particularly in the Middle East – have been in the thick of refugee crises, countries such as Iran, Pakistan, Lebanon and Jordan.
From the outset of the occupation of Palestinian Territories by Israel and the commencing of migration and refuge of Palestinians, the neighbouring countries such as Jordan and Lebanon have been hosts to thousands of Palestinian refugees. Despite their own numerous political and economic problems, Iran and Pakistan have shouldered the burden of being hosts to millions of refugees, responsibilities that mostly have had to endure alone and without international assistance, and thus have managed to prevent crises to occur beyond the region.
Over the past decades, the Middle East region has constantly been the scene of competition between powers outside the region, due to having strategic significance. There countries whose support of totalitarian governments in the region, ignited the flames of ethnic and religious violence and caused wars and the displacement of millions of people. The occupation of Afghanistan, the Iraq-Iran War, failing to recognise the rights of the people of Palestine in defending their national identity, are examples of the support of these players of war and chaos in the Middle East region. Despite years of war and violence, the people of the region have never shut the door on millions of refugees, have always carried out their human duty towards their guests very well, and over decades, by carrying out international commitments and accepting the Convention on Refugees, they have never threatened to leave these conventions.
Europe and International Community’s Approach to Refugees
With the escalation of the war in Syria and continuation of the domination of extremism in the Middle East and North Africa, an unprecedented wave of migration of refugees to Europe began.
Some of the reasons for the unprecedented migration towards Europe are as follows:
- Escalation of the proportions of the unstopped extremism violence and as a result, the filling of refugee taking capacity of neighbouring countries.
- Rise in human trafficking activities and the profiteering from this inhuman act.
- The fall of the previous regime in Libya and the inability of the new government to control the rush of African refugees towards the Libyan coast and the Mediterranean.
- Turkey’s indifference towards controlling its sea and land borders.
All these factors and other precursors resulted in EU member states in being caught unprepared in taking in the huge influx of refugees. Europe’s approach in accepting refugees from the beginning has faced with various ups and downs. Eastern European countries such as Hungary, do not have a suitable process for accepting refugees, and this caused the protests of human rights defenders. Also Germany and Austria, who initially welcomed the refugees with open arms, are faced with extensive protests. The adoption of strange laws such as confiscation of refugees’ valuables by Denmark shows the mental uncertainties of the leaders of this country in how to deal with the refugees.
The thing that is certain is that the adoption of laws that are contradictory to the Geneva Convention and make life difficult for asylum seekers to prevent them from migration, and threatening to leave the Refugees Convention, as Denmark did in January, will not reduce the complications of the refugee crisis, but will rise racist and inhuman sentiments.
Human Rights Achievements under Threat
With the rise in movements that do not tolerate the presence of refugees on EU soil, Europe today is faced with a serious challenge.
Now, in the second decade of the third millennium, modern and developed Europe, a continent that has been a forerunner in human rights developments, must adopt a new and fundamental approach and pursue finding a solution for the refugee crisis, away from political games and its short term interests, with the help of other world powers whose roles are key in solving the Middle East crisis. And pay attention to the fact that, the key to solving the refugee crisis, is ending violence and extremism and providing regional and international support for universal peace – peace that covers the rightful rights of people.
Extremist Terrorism and the Refugee Crisis
Without a doubt the most important factor in the occurrence of the recent refugee crisis is war, instability rise in extremism and terrorism, which has put the Middle East region and subsequently the world up against an expanding problem.
When we look at the global extent of refugees and the displaced, when terror is present in any form, whether state sponsored and or extremist groups against the government, the flow of migration and forced fleeing commences.
The start of a civil war which occurs with the instability of governments, further escalates this human chaos. Over the last few years, with the start of the Arab Spring and the appearance of power vacuums in some regional countries, the scene was set for groups who had spread extremist ideology in the heart of the Arab society, for many years.
Groups such as ISIS who came from the Al-Qaeda ideology, appeared overnight and in radical ways. In a short period of time, in an unbelievable speed, through the use of unknown and limitless resources and modern military hardware, they managed to occupy large swathes of Syria and Iraq and establish an illegitimate self-claimed state. The horrifying ISIS rule which came to power through terror and uncontrollable violence, strengthened its base, and caused the displacement of millions of people. Over just a few years, the inhuman acts of this group which do not corroborate with any of the human rights ideals, created the biggest refugee crisis in today’s world. Since ISIS deems the visualisation of violence as a factor in creating fear and reaching victory, it does not stop committing brutal violence.
To control the refugee flow and prevent the escalation of human crisis, the world needs to recognize the basis for the growth and maintenance of the power of extremist groups, close the door to the spread of influence of these groups and prepare the basis for stability of the people of the region. Otherwise with the change in the demographics of the Middle East region and Europe, the world will faced challenges much greater than the refugee crisis.
If today’s international community does create sustainable peace in the Middle East, the world will be faced with challenges more concerning than the refugee issue, some of these challenges are:
- Mass migration from villages and towns facing the society with a huge cultural change, which can have dangerous consequences for human societies.
- The human rights achievements will noticeably be threatened by new challenges. Germany’s change in asylum seeking laws, due to recent events that occurred during New Year’s Eve celebrations in Cologne, and protests in Europe against governments taking in refugees, are clear examples of these new challenges.
- Social and psychological damages will affect asylum seekers which years of war and violence has inflicted them with. Moving from the extremist violence under ISIS control and stepping into displacement has inflicted irreversible damages to the mental health of asylum seekers and if it is ignore by the international community and host countries, will cause numerous social, political and cultural problems and anomalies.
- Another challenge in today’s refugee crisis is the conditions of host countries. Countries that are currently faced with great economic problems must further be supported by the international community. Parallel to international community’s support for host countries, these countries must do more efforts to promote human rights and encourage of NGOs to take steps towards the protection of refugees.
Reaching Sustainable Development Goals – a Solution for an End to the Crisis
One of the ways to put an end to the current crisis can be the establishment of political and economic stability in the volatile Middle East and North Africa. For as long as war and violence casts its shadow on millions of people, the huge influx of refugees will continue.
Developed countries that the refugee crisis has caused them serious challenges, can provide assistance for the all-out development of countries where extremism and violence have destroyed their infrastructures through more accountability and above their national and regional interests.
Goals 16 and 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals, is a clear document showing the international community commitment to reach peace and sustainable development.
According to the Sustainable Development agreement, signatory countries are committed to cooperate tougher towards reaching these goals, for international peace and stability.
Reaching the ideals and goals of sustainable development in a short term process, and in the long run will bring lasting peace for countries whose human, social, political and economic foundations have been undermined by violence and extremism; and this aim will not be attained without international cooperation.
- In the framework of the objectives and principles that are stated in the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, by recommending a resolution at the UN General Assembly regarding the urgency for reaching a comprehensive view in fighting extremism and conditions that cause its spread, with the cooperation of a number of countries, the Islamic Republic of Iran prepared the basis for the adoption of the resolution by the General Assembly, a resolution that stresses on the expansion of peace and rejection of violence in today’s world. The adoption of this resolution can be a beginning of a new path for the start of international partnership in achieving lasting peace.
- Today’s refugee crisis is a result of lack of attention to peace, and a reminder of the importance and necessity for the establishment of security in all corners of the world. We now live in a world that indifference towards what is happening around us will soon engulf us and its damaging consequences will have a deep impact on the lives and future of the children of this planet.
By: Zahra Mirabian
Political Science expert