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Apathy of refugees: An unending dilemma!

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by Henry Stillwell

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door

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The poem ‘New Colossus’ by Emma Lazarus, which is engraved on the Statue of Liberty, bears these words. Images of countless refugees in survival desperation have shocked the world of late.

However, the ‘Land of the Free’ has not pledged any amount of refugee resettlement in the face of the greatest refugee crisis since WWII.

Many things have to happen before the world can expect the refugee crisis to end. First and foremost, civil wars in Syria, Eritrea, and Libya have created situations where families are faced with two choices; flee to the West, or die in your homeland. The West needs to do its part in arranging peace talks, and attempting to bring an end to these crippling wars. Instead of picking sides and supplying weapons, we need to send diplomatic negotiators with peace as the only objective. Secondly, situations of extreme poverty must be alleviated. Another major reason for the current refugee crisis is extreme poverty, lack of access to food and clean water. Billions of people in Africa, Asia, and in the Middle East live on less than two dollars a day. When people who have no money, they face a paucity of clean water; attempt to travel to wealthier nations is often the only option. The West needs to do a better job of leveling the playing field for human species. No human deserves to live without clean water. These should be the long-term goals of wealthy nations, namely, United States in the face of such atrocities.

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In terms of the immediate response, the West must begin to admit more refugees. The United Kingdom pledged to take in 10,000, a drop in the bucket of an estimated 2,000,000 people who have been displaced in Syria, Eritrea and Libya. Clearly, nobody in the European Union has been willing to step up and make commitments based on helping the most refugees possible, as opposed to commitments that make sense financially and politically. However, I feel the country that can and should do the most is the United States. Where would the United States be if we had not taken in swathes of immigrants during the Irish potato famine? The United States is historically a nation of immigrants, a melting pot. The United States is supposed to be the nation where people can seek refuge, and be afforded some basic civil rights. How can the United States be so hypocritical when these are values that every American claims to uphold? These values are enshrined and engraved in our most sacred institutions. They are believed to be the most revered symbols.

Give me your huddled masses yearning to breathe free?

Here they are!

  • Vrushali Mahajan

    There should be some steps taken to protect these refugees. These people are refugees in their own country, how saddening is that!

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Afghan Refugees in Pakistan Terribly Neglected In COVID lockdown

COVID Lockdown leaves Afghan Refugees in Pakistan neglected and in despair

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Afghan refugee
Afghan Refugees in Pakistan Suffer under Coronavirus Lockdown as kids are seem playing outside a refugee camp. VOA
By Ayesha Tanzeem

Nearly 2.5 million Afghans live in Pakistan as either registered or undocumented refugees. Their lives have been upended by the coronavirus lockdown, but they seem to be getting little attention. Even though this might not hold much relevance in international news amid the COVID crisis, the lives of the refugees are in a terrible state.

This Afghan refugee settlement in Islamabad doesn’t have electricity or other basic facilities.

Most people here depend on day work for their living.  As the novel coronavirus spread and the country went into a partial lockdown, their livelihoods were nearly destroyed.

“These people hardly made $3-4 per day. Some of them picked up paper from the streets or trash for recycling, some worked as motorcycle mechanics. All of them are now sitting at home,” said Abdul Hameed, Afghan Refugee Representative.

An estimated 800 families, or around 5,000 individuals, live in this settlement. Many of them work at the nearby vegetable market.

“Ever since the coronavirus has spread, the authorities don’t allow us to gather inside the market. We wait along the roadside all day long, but no one gives us work,” said Abdul Khaliq, a day worker.

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Afghan refugees’s lives have been upended by the coronavirus lockdown. Pixabay

On Tuesday, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees announced a cash assistance program for some of them. A two-month delay in making the aid available was blamed on a lack of resources.

“We realized that we would need money that we did not have. We had to go very quickly to donors to explain the level of intervention that we wanted to do. We needed to get confident that the donors were going to support that,” said Iain Hall, Deputy Representative of UNHCR Pakistan.

The U.N. agency acknowledges that the money, while helpful, is not enough to help everyone in need. In addition, half of the nearly three million Afghans living in Pakistan don’t have official refugee status and do not fall under the agency’s mandate.

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Meanwhile, in this Islamabad settlement, people have no option but to wait. (VOA)

 

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UN Appeals to Aid Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh

Rohingya Refugee Crisis Has Bangladesh, UN Calling for Help

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Rohingya refugees
Rohingya refugees wait in an area following a boat capsizing accident, in Teknaf. VOA

By Lisa Schlein

The U.N. refugee and migration agencies are jointly appealing for $877 million to aid 855,000 Rohingya refugees, most of whom fled violence and persecution from Myanmar three years ago, and more than 444,000 vulnerable Bangladeshis hosting them.

More than half of the money will provide vital services, including food, shelter, clean water and sanitation.  The rest of the appeal will be used for health, protection, education, site management, energy and environmental needs.

Shahriar Alam of Bangladesh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs says his government has welcomed this large exiled population within its midst.  But he acknowledges their presence poses challenges and that the solution to the plight of the Rohingya refugees is repatriation to Myanmar when that becomes possible. But this is unlikely to happen, he says, without the vigorous support of the International community.

“We expect that U.N. member countries to do more and work closely and do everything possible to put pressure on Myanmar to take their citizenship back in a manner, a repatriation that is safe, voluntary, and dignified,” Alam said.

Rohingya refugees
Coast guards escort Rohingya refugees following a boat capsizing accident, in Teknaf. VOA

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi agrees that Bangladesh deserves support for hosting nearly one million Rohingya.  He laments the short attention span of the media and the international community who quickly move from one crisis to another.

As a consequence, he says the Rohingya have become largely forgotten.  He agrees with the Government of Bangladesh that the solution continues to be in Myanmar.

“The problem is that things that need to be done there to create conditions for refugees to return from Bangladesh into Myanmar are too slow or not happening yet–freedom of movement, return of internally displaced people that are in camps in Rakhine State,” Grandi said.

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Grandi says those who return should be granted housing, land, and property rights and be given the education and training they need to be able to work.  But the most fundamental step of all, he says, is for the Rohingya to be given a path to citizenship.

The Rohingya who have lived in Myanmar for generations were stripped of their citizenship in 1982. (VOA)

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UN to Allocate More Funds for War Crimes Inquiries in Syria and Myanmar

UN Increases 2020 Budget, Adds Funds for War Crimes Inquiries

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Rohingya refugees attend a ceremony organised to remember the second anniversary of a military crackdown that prompted a massive exodus of people from Myanmar to Bangladesh, at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhia. VOA

The United Nations General Assembly Friday adopted a $3.07 billion operating budget that for the first time includes funding for the investigation of war crimes in Syria and Myanmar.

The budget represents a slight increase from 2019’s figure of $2.9 billion.

The increase was the result of additional missions assigned to the U.N. Secretariat, inflation and exchange rate adjustments, according to diplomats.

These include the observer mission in Yemen, a political mission established in Haiti, the investigation of crimes committed in Syria since the outbreak of civil war in 2011, and in Myanmar after the 2017 crackdown on the Rohingya Muslim minority.

Syria, Myanmar inquiries

Myanmar Refugees
Rohingya refugees gather near a fence during a government organized media tour to a no-man’s land between Myanmar and Bangladesh, near Taungpyolatyar village, Maung Daw, northern Rakhine State, Myanmar. VOA

For the first time, the budgets for the Syria and Myanmar investigations, which were previously financed by voluntary contributions, will in 2020 be transferred to the U.N. secretariat’s budget and will receive compulsory contributions from the 193 member states.

Russia proposed multiple amendments during negotiations in the Committee on Budgetary Questions meeting and in the General Assembly plenary session.

Dissenters

At each vote, Russia, Syria, Myanmar and their supporters, including North Korea, Iran, Nicaragua and Venezuela, were outvoted. They all stated that they dissociated themselves from references to investigative mechanisms in the adopted resolutions.

Russia said it would examine its future obligatory payments in light of the vote outcome and predicted an increase in the arrears that currently plague the U.N.’s treasury because of countries not paying enough.

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Moscow argued Friday the investigative mechanism was illegitimate, while Damascus stressed that it had no mandate from the Security Council.

The U.N.’s operating budget is separate from the annual budget for peacekeeping operations of some $6 billion that is adopted in June. (VOA)