Refugees: The Price of Violent Delight
Every two seconds, a person is forcibly displaced as a result of conflict or persecution, that is 43,200 people a day who leave everything behind in search of safety to see a better tomorrow. They are sometimes shot at, burnt to death by border officials, drowned at the hands of smugglers, they are placed under camps with little to no amenities, and acts of pilferage and thievery are a common sight. From Myanmar to Syria refugees are gathering at faster rate than ever before. There have never been more forcibly-displaced at any point of time in throughout human history. But too often, locus of inquisition is placed on where the refugees are running to, rather than raising the concerns that led to the situation.
The definition of a refugee has changed over the years. From ‘Protestants facing state persecution’ if found practicing their faith in France in the 17th century, to the ‘Syrians fleeing bombs’ in the 21st. Officially, the term refugee was not defined in international law until the 1951 Refugee Convention, which came in response to the first great refugee crisis of the 20th century - the Second World War, which forcibly displaced around 50 million people worldwide.
Root cause of mass displacement can be a complex mixture of social, economic, ethnic and political factors, that include forced displacement, mass evacuation, deportation of people, expulsion and subsequent genocides, ethnic cleansing, human rights violations and targeted civilian killings.
Although, the World War ended in 1945, the aftermath of the turmoil led to the continued displacement of people. Immediately after the war, an estimated 11.3 million forced laborers were displaced from European countries to their neighbour Germany. A decade later in Hungary, 200,000 people fled to Austria and Yugoslavia when the Soviet army suppressed the Hungarian Uprising in 1956. The independence of India which resulted in the partition of the then British colony into two nations, displaced 14 million Indians and Pakistanis in 1947. The formation of a Jewish state after a bloodshed war in Palestine led to the departure of 750,000 people to nearby West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon between 1948 and 1950. The Vietnam War displaced 2.7 million Vietnamese from the South to North who were fighting the war during 1965-72. Following the war, 800,000 Vietnamese from Vietnam went to Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia in the post-war decades, i.e. from 1975-95. Civil Wars in Laos (1976) and Cambodia (1976-85) and the Burmese expulsion of Rohingyas from 1978 (which is at present facing the world’s worst ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims, where more than 1 lakh have been forced to flee their country), were other episodes of massive displacements in the World. The Bangladesh War of Independence in 1971 saw approximately 10 million people flee from the then East Bengal to India.
West Asia, it is one of the most politically unstable regions in the world where every form of violations and brutality exist. The Six Days War or the Arab-Israeli war in 1967 created 300,000 Palestinian refugees who found refuge in the neighbouring countries. The Black September conflict of 1970 in Jordan and the Gulf War of 1991, became the reason for other refugee crises in the Middle East. Iran- Iraq war in the 1980s displaced 600,000 people from Iraq to Iran. In the first decade of this century, Syria was the largest refugee hosting country in the world. It was seen as an asylum to the refugees from Palestine, Iraq and other countries. But who knew that the country which was once known for its asylum to the refugees of other nations, will face the brunt of a peaceful demonstration against the regime as the beginning of the biggest refugee crisis since the second world war.
At present, there are about 65.6 million displaced people in the world, about the same as the population of the UK. About 22.5 million refugees displaced outside their country of origin, more than half come from three countries: Syria, Afghanistan and South Sudan. Eighty-six per cent of the refugees under UNHCR care are located in low- and middle-income countries, mostly the neighbouring countries from which they have fled. Turkey is the country with the largest number of refugees with 2.9 million refugees; Lebanon, with one refugee for every five citizens of the country, hosts more refugees per head of population than any other country. According to UNHCR, some 51 per cent of all refugees are children, many of them travelling alone.
The refugee problem is not a regional issue any more, it is global in every sense. The most affected by civil war, human right violations, ethnic conflicts, poverty, climate change and many other issues, are the developing and the least developed nations. The development of all these countries is hindered by these issues.
The superpowers of the world are using war as an opportunity to enhance their weapons and arms trade, and their control over the oil and gas production and supply which makes 3.9 percent of the global economy. The struggle for dominance over this sector has led to many civil wars and proxy wars, consequently leading to a refugee crisis. The politics of balance of power, hegemony and individual economic prosperity through profit, have blinded these countries that are capable of solving this age-old issue of refugee crisis. Instead of creating more premises for war, these nations should come together to make peace, security and stability in the vulnerable countries which face poverty, hunger and other human development issues, and must get aid and assistance from the rich countries.
As Plato described in The Republic, people will often commit acts of injustice when they calculate it is in their interests to do so. A common cause of injustice is human selfishness, and this injustice should be rectified.