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The Refugee System is Not Coping

The international refugee system is not coping well with the continuing pressure of new refugees - though this is probably situation normal for much of the past century as various crises have caused large numbers of persons to be displaced from their home communities.

The Problem

The international refugee system initially established about a century ago is not coping well, with millions of people displaced from their home communities and living in state of fear and dislocation as well as often in poor hygiene and other public utilities. This state has been common throughout almost 90 years of coordinated international action to look after refugees.

Recent stresses arise from:

  • Continued crises and upheavals in multiple countries providing ongoing numbers of new refugees
  • Continued unwillingness of international bodies such as the UN to deal expeditiously with the crises that cause refugees, often blamed on sensitivity to national sovereignty and/or the long tail of support/rebuilding required
  • The lower cost of travel making it easier for refugees to move beyond their immediate local refugee camps
  • The greater ease of international communication and media affecting the ambitions of more of these refugees and possibly reducing the fear of cultural incompatibility
  • Continued political and economic uncertainty constraining the willingness of developed communities not adjacent to the sources of refugees to accept refugee resettlement
  • (Perhaps) the start of the rise of the question whether national boundaries that separate peoples into economic wealth groups are morally defensible

Many western communities remain detached from both the initiating crises that create refugees and the extent and character of the temporary refugee centres near to the crisis locations.  For instance in Australia the broad population get jittery when a couple of thousand asylum seekers arrive by flimsy boats, with the resulting public debate largely missing the crises that sourced the large numbers of refugees of which the boat people are only a very minor part. 

The Proposal

It is unlikely that any solution is likely to be achievable in the short to medium term. Indeed the situation could get much worse with the potential for major refugee waves and matching xenophobia due to climate change, public health and food security crises.

Nonetheless the following would seem to assist the long term resolution or amelioration of the problem:

  1.  Maintain, publish and communicate broad statistical measures of refugee numbers, and where and for how long they have been accommodated - including numbers by causal crisis and shares of their financing costs, refugee resettlement locations etc. Help western communities understand the scale and character of the refugee crisis and their community's part of the solution.
  2. Promote and reward effective and generous community responses to the numbers and issues of displaced persons.
  3. Work at international body level on the core principles that every community should support and evidence as a means of quickly identifying crises that need international intervention - these principles should address many of the discriminatory treatments that lead to refugees.
  4. Create and refine quick response capacity to stop community crises that break these core principles.
  5. Create and refine effective community rebuild and intervention force exit strategies.
  6. Facilitate the emerging debate about the current reality and morality of the economic disparity between communities - and how international bodies can gradually shift towards ameliorating this disparity and recognizing persons rather than national communities as the constituent entities of international bodies.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 May 2012 00:41

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