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Mounting Refugee Crisis

By Gazi Hassan

11 September, 2015

Is it really a crisis or a crisis which was fashioned in order to change the demography of the Europe? Whatever may be the case but the fact remains that people (refugees) are fleeing their homes in search of better life in alien nations. Why this huge exodus of population in foreign nation which are different linguistically, culturally and ethnically? What has world come to?

For this to understand we need to get into the past. European and western powers are blamed in a way apart from the war-torn host nations for such crisis. What Europe and in particular US have been pursuing in the Middle East is the spill-over effect of the crisis. United States call of Global War on Terror and annihilation of terror outfits in the world has escalated the problems related to immigration and in particular refugee crisis.

Let alone start with Arab Spring which witnessed huge democratic movements in Middle East. Starting from Tunisia it spread like forest fire and engulfed much of Middle East. Students, academicians, scholars, business men, civil society organizations and people from various aspects of life came together and demanded equal rights, freedom of expression and other things from their despotic rulers. This transition from authoritarianism to democracy was successful in some countries while others are still crippling to sustain such transition. What led to this transition rested with the western liberal values which encouraged the youths of these Arab Nations to take a giant leap forward in order to free their nations from the despots. We were witnessing the demise of authoritarianism. World was going to change once for all. But the question remains, were people of those nations mature enough to enjoy democracy with the lack of institutions and public offices. They had to start from the scratch.

With the fall of the regimes, countries grappled in civil wars. There was power struggle among various factions of the society for the political representation. This made life hard for the civilians of these nations. Left with nowhere to go for the fulfillment of basic necessities, people started looking for options like migration for better future in foreign nations. Same is true for the African migrants seeking asylum in Europe for brighter future. This is one of many causes of refugee and immigration crisis we are witnessing today.

Syria and Iraq are the nations in Middle East engulfed in civil wars. Syria has entered 3rd year of its civil war. Country is devastated with people in millions fleeing their homes and making desperate journeys for better future and millions more being killed and dying because of war. Who is to be blamed for this? Can we only held Bashar al Asad accountable for such crimes or for that matter west and its policies (of toppling and installing pro-west regime in place for their own national interests) responsible for the same. Whatever be the reason for the war, it is the people, ordinary and innocent who are suffering the curses of the war. They are forced to flee their homes in search of war and violent free life.

Iraq is yet another example of such case. With the fall of Saddam Hussain, country was ravaged in sectarianism. There was power vacuum to be filled. Factions struggled to fill that vacuum. Sectarian clashes mainly involving Shia, Sunni and Kurds devastated the country and thereby led to the fleeing of people which we are still witnessing these days.

Recent rise of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) in the region has further escalated sufferings of the people. It is becoming one of the major reasons now a days in forcing people to flee. With the aim of creating Neo-Caliphate based on radical and extremist interpretation of Islam and thereby state of its own, are involved in killing and bombing of innocent civilians and civilians’ infrastructure. This has led to the violation of norms of International Humanitarian Law, Geneva Law, Hague Law and most importantly the basic humanity. Acts which are so barbaric are condemned across the globe but all in vain. They are still continuing their hostilities on the innocent civilians leaving them helpless and devastated. Saudi led coalition in bombing the Houthi rebel targets in Yemen is yet another case of humanitarian crisis. Saudi in order to maintain its status quo presence in the region will never allow Iran backed Houthi rebels to take on Yemen capital. Region is witnessing worst time in decades.

United States and its policies can also be blamed for recent refugee crisis. Although United States is not involved directly in any overt operation but covertly is using every means to secure their strategic interests. Also US targeted bombing of IS targets in Mosul and Trikit areas of Northern Iraq and Kobane province of Syria has further escalated the conflict and had caused heavy devastation to civilian infrastructure. In the air bombing itself, there have been large amount of civilian causalities. People are forced and they themselves flee their homes for safer areas.

What’s more interesting to observe here is that, people are fleeing only to Europe and not other stable countries of the region. I feel it is the high standard of living coupled with the security for life and above all the liberal values of the west which is the driving force of attraction for the people. Migrating or fleeing will cause demographic change in Europe. Europe is itself struggling with its own economic downturn and with the coming of refugees will burden Europe’s responsibilities. Europe’s economy is in shambles with Greece in debt and other economies not performing well, rise of refugee or migrant population can further destabilize the situation. If we see the refugees who are fleeing their homes are mostly Muslims from Iraq and Syria. Some people contemplate when Muslims think about religion they look forward to Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations but for Human Rights knock the doors of West. Although Arab Nations are pledging huge chunks of monetary packages for refugees but its not enough. Rather they should provide safe areas where they can temporarily be settled. There is an apprehension in Europe that with the rise in refugee population, they soon will start asking for rights and political representation. History has witnessed that whenever there is demographic change in an area, conflicts emerge and thus disturbing the harmony of that area. It should be noted that not all the countries of Europe are against the refugee crisis. Germany, Iceland are welcoming refugees with open arms. In fact many Brits have open their homes for Syrian refugees.

There are various international concerns related to refugee problems like legal protection of refugees, providing humanitarian assistance, non-refoulment etc. Well according to the norms of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) it is the responsibility of the state to protect its citizens and provide the humanitarian assistance in the times of war. But if state is in itself unable to provide and protect, it is the responsibility of international community or the third party to do the same on the basis of humanitarian grounds. Therefore if refugees are seeking protection in the foreign nation it is than the responsibility of that nation to provide legal protection in terms of both giving them basic human rights and proper humanitarian assistance. Countries should make every necessary effort to provide humanitarian assistance to refugees. They should be provided with safe shelter and proper care should be taken. According to the 1959 Refugee Convention of UN which states that “No contracting state shall expel or return (Refoule) a refugee in any manner that what so ever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on the account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a social group or political opinion.” Since then UNHCR has provided assistance and protection to tens of millions of refugees across the globe.

Keeping in mind above mentioned things, we can come to a conclusion that countries/nations across the globe should soften migration laws. It is necessary because it is need of the hour, laws should not be confined to the civilians only but it should have a wide scope for accommodating refugees, migrants and all those people in dire need of humanitarian assistance.And organization such as ICRC should make every possible effort to make sure that countries abide by the International Humanitarian Law. Saudi Arabia guardian of two Holy Mosques of Islam and other wealthy nations of Muslim world should come forward with open handsand safe guard to the affected people. India and other South Asian Nations should also come forward to help and start accepting the refugees for the cause of humanity.

Author is MPhil Scholar in International Studies at Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi. And can be reached at gazi.ktr@gmail.com


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