Two international conventions on refugees are to be held on Monday September 19th and Tuesday September 20th in New York to discuss the ongoing global refugee crisis. The first meeting is hosted by Ban Ki-Moon under the aspics of the UN while the second meeting will be hosted by Obama and comprised of a more limited selection of states. Ever since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War, refugees have gained increasingly amount of international attention as the First World struggles to respond to the humanitarian crisis.
Despite the scale of the crisis and the high level delegations, expectations for the conferences to achieve concrete results are not high. This is especially true of the conference hosted by the United Nations. Many commentators, whether scholars or NGOs workers, dismiss the UN conference as a futile exercise in platitudes where everyone will adopt some high-minded consensus but lacking in substance. Some hold higher hopes for the second conference hosted by Barack Obama. However with the onset of U.S. elections, many fear that whatever targets Obama may commit to in the summit will be reversed by his successor.
The Syrian refugee crisis, together with a number of other crises, has caused political upheaval and controversy in even the most stable and prosperous of nations. International burden-sharing has always been a controversial topic. Turkey alone hosts 3 million Syrian refugees and has spent $12 billion on housing them. Yet the July Coup and the collapse of the EU-Turkey migrant deal threaten to undermine Turkey’s ability and willingness to sustain such a large refugee population. The matter is further complicated by complaints raised by Turkish officials that the advance countries of the world, primarily the European Union, only want to take in the well-educated and the professionals among the refugee populations and are unwilling to pay the cost of hosting the refugees.
While the Syrian Refugee Crisis bought international attention onto the problem of refugees, the Syrian Refugee Crisis is only the tip of the iceberg. The Syrian Civil War has the fortune or the misfortune of happening relatively close to Europe, and close enough for large numbers of refugees to reach the developed countries on foot or on relatively simple watercraft. Yet all over the world, the numbers of displaced peoples are higher than ever, whether from conflict or from climate change. It is estimated that around 65 million people are currently displaced, either as international refugees or internally within their own countries. While the Syrian Civil War has created a large refugee problem, the 4.7 million forced to flee Syria is dwarfed by overall number of displaced peoples. An overly-narrow focus on Syrian refugees ignores the global scale of the refugee crisis. It also means refugees fleeing other, less well-known conflicts and environmental disasters, including Yemen, Sudan, and Central Africa, must continue to suffer in the background and ignored.
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