The humanitarian tragedy of refugees

People who are outside their home country because they have suffered or fear persecution because of their race, religion, nationality or political opinion, because they are members of a persecuted social category of persons or because they are fleeing a war are called refugees. Until recognized by the state where they make a claim and have taken that status, they are called asylum seekers.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Turkey is the country with the largest number of refugees, hosting 1.8 million Syrian refugees as of today. We know that the real number (due to non-registered people) is over 2 million. Syria, Palestine and Afghanistan are the largest territories that create refugees. There are around 17 million refugees in the world and 33 million people have been forcibly displaced. Every year, 450,000 people become refugees, asylum seekers or displaced persons. In 2013, conflict and persecution forced an average of 32,200 individuals per day to leave their homes and seek protection elsewhere. This number is rising and in 2014, for the first time since World War II, the total number of refugees, asylum seekers and forcibly displaced people passed 50 million globally.

As the host to the largest number of refugees, Turkey has done the best it can. It is carrying on work despite insufficient aid from the UNHCR and the European Union. Many refugees are trying to go to Europe illegally and most of them become victims of human trafficking.

About a month ago, we saw a tragedy in the Mediterranean that ended with the deaths of dozens of Libyan refugees trying to escape to Italy from the civil war. In the short term, this Mediterranean refugee crisis has been created by the civil wars in Libya and Syria, the resulting breakdown of governmental authority, the virtual abandonment of border controls and the concomitant rise of criminal gangs and jihadist groups that have forced thousands of people to leave their homes.

Today, another tragedy is going on in Southeast Asia, with many ships full of Rohingya Muslims from Rakhine State in Myanmar waiting to enter the territories of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. The countries have not accepted the ships and those aboard are suffering from hunger. It is believed that up to 7,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshis are still on small and large boats in the Strait of Malacca and nearby international waters, some after more than two months at sea.

It is not the first flow and it will not be the last, but it is obvious that the efforts of the international community are inadequate. All of us could become refugees one day. We have to find reliable and sustainable solutions to the refugee crisis.

Warsan Shire, a Somali-British author and poet, said in her book “Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth” that “no one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.” We have to think more on this tragedy of death, suffering and hunger and help those people who end up being refugees.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman