It is without doubt a reminder that this world can be a terrible place, if by chance you were born in the wrong time or the wrong place.There is nothing fair about this. Why can some humans live a civil life, without want for food or security, while others are deprived of these human rights. It is not a just world.
Taking stock in a troubled worldOur world is in a sorry state.Wars ravage too many countries, Somalia,Yemen, Syria, Libya, Iraq, Sudan,Ukraine, and others. The great strides in communication technologies have opened up a window to life in all parts of the globe. For the destitute peoples of Africa and Asia, the relative affluence of the developed world is a magnet. Large numbers of people either escaping persecution, and war, or just trying to improve their lives, are all too willing to leave their countries and seek 'asylum' elsewhere. The numbers are staggering, estimates give some 20 million currently living in refugee camps as at end of 2014, but most probably double that in various states of transit across the globe.
Most refugees simply escape war or persecution and join others in camps in the country adjacent to the conflict. They then seek to migrate to the more generous developed world. In response to the escalating need some developed countries have increased their refugee intake from but a few thousand to a few thousand more. Even Germany's dramatic increase to an unprecedented 800,000 this year is but a drop in the ocean when facing a total over 40m.
There is of course widespread media coverage with dramatic scenes of human misery. So we have full time coverage. Emotions in the electorate are running high, and politicians cannot avoid taking some action. But what can they and what should they do? Our government's widely welcomed commitment to resettle an additional 12,000 refugees from the camps is a token. In comparison to other developed countries it is perhaps generous, but it remains nothing but a token when looking at the size of the problem.
Lets face some factsThe current wave of migration is unusual in its extent and size. It has been compared to the wave of relocation following WWII. Yet all efforts to date have been insignificant. Until this wave of refugees broke the shores of Europe over the past 12 months, the West has ignored the problem.
Now, no longer. With tens of thousands of 'migrants' flowing into Italy, Greece, Hungary they are a very visible, ever-present and growing problem.
For Europe solutions are particularly challenging. The European Union was built on a respect for every individual and has long espoused universal human rights. However the large numbers present a problem for even the largest economies. There is of course the very real costs required to house, feed and integrate the new migrants. For the smaller economies who are struggling with their own welfare systems this is no minor issue. But the greater challenge for the largely Christian Europe is cultural, how to accept large numbers of Muslim migrants into your society without changing it.
In all these respects, this mass migration presents a complex dilemma to the developed world.
I do not claim a 'solution', but I think most of our commentators and much of the media seem to avoid some unwelcome facts. Perhaps this is due to political correctness. Perhaps it is hard to look dispassionately at human suffering. Perhaps it is a fear that any harsh judgment will result in criticism directed at the 'messenger'. Indeed this may well result from my voicing some of these issues. Nevertheless, I believe real solutions can only arise if we are honest about the size and nature of the problem. So let me venture some observations.
Borders should be closed
- Not all 'asylum seekers' are refugees and they should not be treated in the same way.
- The world has too many people who if given the chance have the means to travel to countries which have open borders and which will offer a better life.
- Germany opening its doors to some 800,000 has caused a virtual run at the borders. This is unsustainable and damaging to every country in the Eurozone.
- Large and sudden increases in the number of migrants causes economic and social burdens on the receiving countries. Failure to manage the rate of increase and the integration can lead to social unrest, which manifests itself in increased poverty and crime rates and lowers living standards for everyone.
- Responsible governments will limit their intake of migrants to ensure their own social structures remain intact. Even countries adjacent to conflict zones have enforced camps to limit the impact on their own populations. This is not racism and it is not unreasonable.
- There are millions of poor souls who don't have the means to pay people smugglers or who would not risk the lives of their families.
- Those who are leaving the camps are trying to 'jump the queue'.
- Those who claim to be refugees and have already left a country where they were safe should be returned to a refugee camp, closest to their point of departure, before being processed. (I have specifically not mentioned the UN convention for refugees, which requires refugees to seek asylum from the first signatory country. It is a sufficient condition that a genuine refugee apply for resettlement from the first country where it has refuge. It goes without saying that those in camps in Turkey and Jordan are safe from the Syrian war.)
- Priority for resettlement should be given to those who have stayed in a camp the longest.
- Refugees are escaping persecution or war. They are by definition looking for refuge and should automatically be satisfied by whichever country offers this.
- A UN body, most probably the UNHCR should manage the resettlement process.
- All countries offering places for refugee resettlement should register these with the UNHCR
- Each refugee family should be offered a resettlement country randomly selected.
- A family should have the option to reject the country of resettlement but if they did so they would go to the bottom of the queue for the next selection, and may indeed stay in their camp for years.
- Countries accepting refugees for resettlement also retain their rights to select which refugees they will accept
- A vital consequence of this process is that economic refugees would NOT register as refugees
- All countries as part of their obligations to the UN should offer to fund the resettlement of refugees.
- Quite separately all countries should also offer to resettle refugees.
- UNHCR should allocate a fixed US$ amount per person being resettled into a country. This should equate to at least the first 12 months cost of housing and feeding the refugee. This amount should be paid to the resettling country as an incentive for even poorer countries to accept refugees.
- There should in addition be a levy on all countries to ensure the refugee camps are maintained to preserve the well being and dignity of those who are forced to stay in camps till they are resettled.
Stop the wars
- Refugees are a symptom of failed states, and indeed a failed world system
- The world needs to be far more proactive in ensuring leaders do not threaten their own people.
- In many of the troubled areas of the world small groups of armed thugs hold their populations hostage to their whims. In most of these cases the UN and the West could very simply remove the tyrants from power and they should do so.
- I accept that with wars, especially where larger nations are involved, it is far more difficult and we are yet to develop a UN-like body that is effective in these situations.
Clear the camps
One of our millennium goals should be to clear the camps. Too many camps around the world have become the way of life for too many and for too long.