The refugee crisis is a world crisis. We have seen the death of thousands of refugees as they seek safety, while conflict around the world claims the lives of innocent civilians every day. As conflict rages on, developed nations continue to turn their back on those who need their help, through a right-wing populist wave. This crisis is not unsolvable, and with everyone’s help, millions of lives can be saved.
In the most recent refugee tragedy, yet another group of innocent refugees have been the victims of violence as the refugee crisis continues. A boat carrying more than one hundred Somali refugees near the coast of Yemen has been attacked by a Saudi-led military helicopter. The attack reportedly killed more than 40 refugees, with a further 80 injured. This is not an isolated incident, the death of refugees crossing seas and borders is far too common. 2016 saw approximately 3,610 people drowned or missing in the Mediterranean Sea alone, as they attempted the risky journey to Europe. The journey out of conflict zones in Northern Africa and the Middle East is long and dangerous, but in desperate times, refugees see it as their only hope.
Refugees have increasingly become the victims of violence as they attempt to find safety from their conflict-ridden homes. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) released a report at the start of the year stating that 7,495 refugees were dead or missing in 2016. This number compares to 5,267 in 2014 and 5,740 in 2015, showing a dramatic increase. “That’s almost 20 deaths per day. And we don’t believe we are anywhere near counting all of the victims. We are past the time for counting. We must act to make migration legal, safe and secure for all” stated the Director General of IOM, William Lacy Swing.
The statistics do not lie; we have a refugee crisis that desperately needs addressing. There are 65.3 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, 21.3 million refugees, 10 million stateless people and only 107,100 resettled refugees. Leaders around the world continuously preach the risks to their countries’ safety posed by immigration, but they ignore millions of people in need. Immigration and counter-terrorism experts like United Nations Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson believe “Overly-restrictive migration policies introduced because of terrorism concerns are not justified and may, in fact, be damaging to state security.” The use of more open, welcoming immigration policy could prove to be beneficial for countries around the world who have for a long time been anti-immigration, but with the recent rise in populist right-wing leaders, this looks unlikely. Canada is a great example of a country welcoming refugees, and who do not have terrorism issues. Thus proving Trump’s claims about the risks of letting in refugees, utterly false and unfounded.
The world and its leaders can no longer continue to drop bombs on these countries and then turn their back when the innocent seeks their help. Amnesty International stated that “Just 10 of the world’s 193 countries host more than half its refugees.” These countries are Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Jordan, Chad, Lebanon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda; none of them are fully developed, conflict free zones. Salil Shetty, the Amnesty International Secretary General made a powerful statement to the world’s political leaders, saying that “The problem is not the global number of refugees, it is that many of the world’s wealthiest nations host the fewest and do the least… If every one of the wealthiest countries in the world were to take in refugees in proportion to their size, wealth and unemployment rate, finding a home for more of the world’s refugees would be an eminently solvable challenge. All that is missing is cooperation and political will.”
Trump has been the face of anti-immigration through his populist campaign and presidency, enforcing two immigration bans, both of which have been blocked due to their unconstitutional, discriminatory nature. While he has gained most of the attention for blocking immigration, leaders across the world have taken an “absence of leadership and responsibility” regarding the refugee crisis. “I am particularly disturbed by lurid public narratives which appear deliberately aimed at stirring up public fear and panic, by depicting these vulnerable people as criminal invading hordes” stated the High Commissioner for Human Rights. It must be the role of civilians to welcome refugees and migrants alike with open arms, while leaders should be held accountable for their poor response to death and suffering around the world.
While the leaders of the developed world have the power to save lives, as a community, people around the world hold a responsibility to force their leader’s hands and welcome refugees with open arms. Recent reports have come out stating that refugees and asylum seekers in Germany have been attempting suicide due to poor conditions and a sense of “hopelessness and despair.” So, it is not just the accepting of refugees that must be improved, developed nations must ensure that these people are welcomed into good living conditions where they are safe and properly integrated.
There are calls across for leadership and the end of anti-immigration reform that leaders like Donald Trump are trying to sign into action. Thousands of people have gathered to protest anti-immigration across America throughout the first few months of 2017. Activists like actor Mandy Patinkin have also called for leadership as the world turns their back on refugees. On his tour of Europe’s refugee crisis with the International Rescue Committee, Patinkin stated “We need to find a way to lift these bans all over the world to welcome these people into our homes and our countries, our mosques, our synagogues, our churches, our neighborhoods – to stop being afraid. These are families like ours, and they are hurting.”
While political leaders are voted for by their own people and are the leaders in their own country, they have a responsibility as a human with power, to act in the best interests of humanity. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated that, “political leaders increasingly demonstrate a chilling indifference to their fate.” There is quite clearly a lack of leadership from political figures around the world who have the tools to help those who are suffering and it is now finally being noticed. Now it is time for a global movement to aid those who desperately need it. It is time for humanity to step up to this deadly crisis.
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