Refugee Crisis: the Need to Tackle

The recent refugee crisis that the world saw has left scars on the minds of people at large. The bloody wars in the name of helping sustain democracy that happened in Syria and Iraq have gained nothing but bloodbath and mass dissertation. So much that people fled their country in the hope of finding a new and stable life elsewhere – a place where they can lead a normal life, away from the constant threat and fear-mongering. The Syrian refugee crisis that has deepened to the very roots of European Society must be tackled and the world should take the blame for the same.

Refugees are those people who have fled their country due to a direct rational threat to their life and liberty. In other sense, they are migrants who cross the border in a ray of hope to get shelter in other countries and lead a normal life. The two world wars resulted in this problem and hence, the United Nations drafted a Convention relating to the Status of Refugees in 1951 which defines Refugees as: “Any person who owing to well-founded fear of being prosecuted 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.” Total 136 nations are party to this Convention as of June 2000.

Although there are many such conventions on Status of Refugees[1], it is generally governed by the law of the respective nation, the UN established its own wing to look after rehabilitation and resettlement of refugees named United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The work of UNHRC is humanitarian, social and non-political. Its basic tasks are to provide international protection to the refugees within the High Commissioner’s mandate and to seek permanent solutions to their problems by facilitating their voluntary repatriation or their assimilation within new national communities [2].

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Even after the efforts of UN, the problems of refugees largely seem unresolved as the estimated number of refugees worldwide as of 2015 stands at 21.3 million [3] and the conventions are not binding on any of the state. These are mere instruments, whereas the municipal laws are supreme. Therefore, there are incidents of refugees being treated discriminatorily by countries; the recent example being the Syrian refugee crisis where many European Nations refused shelter to these people calling them a threat to country’s security. They may have their reasons but forcing people to flee their own nation as a result of a political vendetta is a gross violation of human rights. The definition itself is unsatisfactory when it comes to who fall under the criterion of being a refugee. The Article 1 of Convention that defines refugees is restricted to only to political refugees or so. Prof Paul James, Western Sydney University, criticizes this  definition and explains the why nations perceive refugees differently than what they agreed to in Convention by saying that, “The definition misses out on the point that refugees have been defined in terms of those moving across nation-state borders, as if national identity excludes all other displacements of equal consequence…..the communities were defined having exclusive nationalities, identities,….Many signatories choose to restrict the definition of refugees to those who have come from Europe for a very particular time frame. Some signatories to the Convention were fearful that masses from Global South might turn up to their doorstep demanding a different kind of refuge. They were very careful to demarcate who was a legal refugee and what events counted in causing such status[4].”

Thus a humanitarian approach and cooperation of world governments are needed in order to tackle the refugee crisis worldwide.

[1] Cartagena Declaration on Refugees, Organization of African Unity Convention Governing the Specific aspects of Refugee Problems etc.

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[2]Dr.H.O.Agarwal,  Human Rights, 141,Central law Publication, 16th edition, 2016

[3] Source: Wikipedia

[4] Paul James, Faces of Globalization and the Borders of States: From asylum Seekers to Citizens (2014)  (Last Visited  December 18,2017, 10;30 pm)

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