The Global Refugee Crisis And The Call To Open Up Borders

In today’s conflict-riddled atmosphere and increasing instances of natural disaster’s, as a result of climate change, the world is undergoing the largest global refugee crisis in its history. According to Oxfam, more than 65 million people have fled their homes in wake of varying threats to their safety. Of this 50 percent of the global refugee population is children, with the majority of the displaced being from Syria, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen as a result of the ongoing civil wars in these countries. The majority of the refugee class migrants from the Middle East are internally displaced within their home country and so seek asylum in neighboring countries. In North America however, we have seen our own wave of refugees, fleeing from Central America, the majority of these migrants come from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras fleeing violence and poverty. The current American regime has a clear and strong agenda to reduce all forms of immigration from Latin America, with rejection rates for asylum cases from these 3 countries being upwards of 75 percent. With the increase in need for safe havens for refugees, it appears that many countries are more reluctant than ever to accept asylum seekers.

The United States for example, plans to send troops to intercept a sizable group of migrants making its way to the southern U.S. border, which comes as no surprise given the Trump administration’s anti-migrant rhetoric, with distaste especially for those entering from Mexico. In Europe, European Union members continuously experience tension regarding the opening of borders to migrants from the Middle East and Africa, due to increasing pressure from Spain, Italy, and Greece (countries which are the most common points of entry in Europe for asylum seekers) for the union to update and enforce its immigration laws which require refugees to file their claim in the first EU country which they enter. These countries face difficulties accommodating the high influx of migrants and ask that neighboring countries should be required to share some of the duty to receive displaced persons. Other European countries such as Hungary and Poland argue that the EU should simply tighten its immigration laws and refuse to accept migrants, and themselves are reluctant to agree to taking any asylum seekers themselves.

Europe in general has been bogged by a very xenophobic and anti-immigrant mindset. However, with the number of displaced persons rising, and Europe being a hotspot for those fleeing violence, persecution, natural disasters, and poverty in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa due to its convenient, central location it is detrimental to the fate of these irregular migrants that Europe’s external borders remain open. It is not a new concept for countries to turn a blind eye to people in need of a place of refuge, this is a recurring theme throughout much of history. For example, in 1939 the Cuban, American, and Canadian governments turned away the MS St. Louis which contained over 900 Jewish refugees fleeing persecution in Nazi Germany during the Holocaust. A 2015 study by human rights advocacy organization Amnesty International showed that at least 30 countries had immigration policies which  allowed them to refuse entry to legitimate asylum seekers fleeing dire situations, something not permitted by international law. Australia was given a special mention for its formal “boat-turnback” policy which has resulted in countless displaced persons being forced to remain in unsanitary conditions on vessels until they returned to their countries of origin where they may face persecution among other dangers.

Among the other countries called upon to change their practices were the Netherlands, Russia, and Saudi Arabia; the increased occurrences of such behaviour prompted the United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-Moon to call a high-level meeting to discuss the urgency of the global refugee crisis and urge Australia to set an example by changing its approach and level of involvement in being a part of the solution. Claire Mallinson, the director of Amnesty International’s Australian division expressed concern over the general levels of assistance offered by the countries who do allow asylum seekers to enter and plead their cases. According to her, a shocking 80% of the world’s displaced persons are being hosted in the world’s developing nations, due to proximity and similarity in culture, making these countries more willing to take in the migrants.

The international community’s refusal to come to an agreement on an approach to the global refugee crisis has had detrimental impacts on political stability and the status of human rights and welfare. Developed countries tend to take on the belief that developing countries are responsible for their own problems and that they should not be expected to assist in situations such as this. If this mindset continues to be the common approach by the world’s wealthiest nations, which are far more equipped to handle high influxes of asylum seekers, the number of displaced persons is only set to increase. The developing countries which are hosting the majority of the world’s refugees are incapable of absorbing the entirety of the existing refugee population, nevertheless the additional persons forced to flee their homes each day.

The growing number of displaced persons is an issue which the global community must act on immediately, likely the most important step which needs to be taken is by the European Union. The European Parliament needs to coordinate its asylum strategies and encourage members to actively participate in easing the pressure on the countries which have been overwhelmed by asylum seekers. Incentives such as funding for countries to assist with housing and health care costs of resettling refugees as well as negative consequences for members who are not willing to pull their weight, have and can make a difference in working towards a solution to this major issue. Increasing the stakes and assigning quotas or targets for countries based on their geographical size as well as the availability of their economic resources. Organizing a network for the transfer of migrants for proportional distribution throughout European Union member countries will allow for a more effective system for the handling of irregular migrants. By tackling the ongoing refugee crisis, we can allow second chances for people who have in many cases been forced to leave their homes, families, and friends, and have lost everything. This in turn brings us one step closer to creating a safe place for people of all ethnicities and nationalities.