Refugee crises have increasingly become a problem in today’s modern day society. There are several reasons that have contributed to this situation namely global inequalities, people fleeing persecution and regimes, people fleeing from violence and outbreak of wars. Recent examples include the Kosovan refugees who were forced from their homes by the conflict with the Balkans; Columbian refugees on exile due to drug syndicates; genocide in Rwanda; Afghan, Iraq and Iran refugees fleeing regimes etcetera.
The results of these are that many and thousands of refugees will seek protection from the Western society and their neighbouring countries. International aid efforts by individual countries and International voluntary organizations have been at the forefront in attempting to provide assistance. These efforts have sometimes been compromised and conditions for refugees have been seen to deteriorate as resources available sometimes exceed demand. The aim of most international Communities has been to ensure that they deliver effective protection and relief to all refugees.
The role of the Red Cross as a voluntary relief organisation is to offer shelter and food to people who would otherwise be homeless.
The United Kingdom saw an unexpected infiltration of Kosovan refugees, especially illegal immigrants and asylum seekers during the 1990s. Thousands of refugees were drawn to the Calais Port in France through to the Channel tunnel through the Euro tunnel and eventually to Britain. The renowned Sangatte camp was commandeered by the French Government to deal with the increasing number of Kosovan refugees arriving at Calais.
Before the Sangatte camp was opened, refugees were sleeping on beaches, parks and on the streets. The sangatte camp was previously a warehouse for equipments during the construction of the Eurotunnel which was later converted into a camp to hold refugees. The effect of this was that many began to target the tunnel itself hiding and boarding trains heading for Britain and other European Countries. Mass illegal immigration began to the United Kingdom of which the Eurotunnel prevented 18, 500 of them from reaching Britain between January 2001 to June 2001. In January 2001, gangs of Romanians were detained for tampering with railway signals to stop trains so that they and other asylum seekers could climb aboard the trains.
A main consequence of the refugee situation which has aggravated a crises is the resultant clashes between ethnic groups amongst refugees example Afghan and Kurdish refugees. In April 2001, an Iraqi Kurd was stabbed and left to die when he was involved in a fight with other Kurds. In May 2002, a riot broke out at Sangatte Camp following announcements to tighten security due to problems caused by refugees at the Channel tunnel. The Red cross who were there to help refugees and provide assistance were eventually forced to withdraw from Sangatte and the Camp was eventually closed down by March 2003.
Macaedonia and Albania were countries which have had to deal with an influx of refugees at some stage from Kosovo. Refugees continued to leave Kosovo for Macedonia, where there were received by host families. Relief efforts were made such provisions for camps etcetera. Lack of co-ordination and coherence caused by excessive numbers of refugees in Macedonia and Albania led to desperate overcrowding, unpleasant conditions, threats of diseases, and threats for the welfare of the refugees. Relocation and evacuation to neighbouring countries became inevitable.
According to Mr Guy Goodwin-Gill, “refugees have come to be seen as objects or problems rather than individuals with rights”. The result of the refugee crises is that many countries particularly wealthy western societies seek to deter asylum seekers and migrants. Detention camps are becoming increasingly adopted. Similarly, Rachael Reilly conceded that “European Countries, as well as North America and Australia have systematically diluted their responsibilities towards refugees over the past ten to fifteen years”. Many also argue that the rights of refugees are being compromised and encroached upon due to factors, some of which include “offshore-processing” of refugees- a process in which foreign governments geographically closer to States with refugee crises take in those fleeing to Great Britain in exchange for financial compensation; imposition of visa requirements; refusal of entry of asylum seekers in cases of generalizes civil conflict such as Columbia; the transfer of the responsibility for protection of refugees onto poorer States in Europe where less protection can be afforded.
In June 2000, the UK proposed a major overhaul of the 1951 Refugee Convention. Measures and actions such as these lead to nationals of European Countries becoming increasingly xenophobic and hostile. Governments have also shown that they are more concerned with protecting their territories from the influx of immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees rather than human rights of those people.
Some have argued that global economic systems and international debt creates a world where many are poor; conflict arises and human rights abuse is predominant. Globalisation increases the gap between the rich and the poor. Others argue that the problems are due in large part to the actions of developed states such as unethical foreign policy and arms trade.
An innovative move by the United Nations is on the agenda for implementation. It will seek to respond to criticism on the slow reaction to refuge crises. The United Nations plan rapid reaction aid which will involve aid workers who will be deployed to attend refugee emergencies. The purpose of this is to provide some initial protection for civilians fleeing internal conflicts who are susceptible to violent attacks and killings. This move is being supported by the united Kingdom, United States of America and some Scandinavian countries. These countries are prepared to finance the project and get it up and running. The idea behind the project is to deter violence from the perpetrators who will know that their actions are being watched through the mere presence of the deployed workers. It is anticipated that a list of workers will be made available in ninety-six hours in these times of emergencies.
The 1951 United Nation Convention on refugees is the key legal document in defining who is a refugee, explaining their rights and defining the legal obligation of states. The United Nations High Commisioner for refugees mandate is to provide international protection to refugees and facilitate solutions to the problems of refugees. This encompasses supervision and the application of the above-mentioned 1951 Convention.
In conclusion, the trend for refugees seeking protection away from their homes is seen as a dilemma in some western states including Britain. There is a conscious effort to protect rights of these individuals but the difficulty arises where this has to be balanced with the right to protect its territory. Measures have been introduced which arguably encourage xenophobia and hostility to these refugees. Poorer neighbouring states, which were initially quite welcoming of refugees, are now being squeezed beyond capacity and their citizens are becoming increasingly xenophobic. National states and governments including international communities that aim to address the current trend of refugee crises are drawing up measures that are innovative. It has now been recognised that root causes such as poverty and global inequalities should be identified and corrected where possible prior to escalation to emergency situations leading to people fleeing their countries. Richer Countries in the West are seeking to address poverty in third world countries and summits on the topic are being held in order to come up with a long standing solution that will fundamentally serve to potentially benefit all nations as a whole.
Ager, A, Refugees: Perspectives on the experience of forced migration: London (1999) Cassell Academic
Danieli, Y., Rodley, N. & Weisaeth, L. (Eds.) (1996). International responses to traumatic stress: Humanitarian, human rights, justice, peace and development contributions, collaborative actions and future initiatives. New York: Baywood Publishing Company.
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