No let-up in plight of refugees - GulfToday

No let-up in plight of refugees

Refugees in the UK

Photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

If there is one species on earth who probably feel they are like the detritus of humanity, it is the migrants or refugees. Unwanted and uncared for, they are in a terrible predicament from which there seems to be no looking back. They have been turfed out of their land owing to circumstances beyond their control – purposeless, homeless, hopeless.

At least 100 million people were forced to flee their homes during the last 10 years, seeking refuge either within or outside the borders of their country, according to a UNHCR report.

Several major crises contributed to the massive displacement over the past decade, and the numbers include people who were displaced multiple times, the report said. These crises included the outbreak of the Syrian conflict early in the decade, which continues till today; South Sudan’s displacement crisis, which followed its independence; the arrival of refugees and migrants in Europe by sea; the crisis in Africa’s Sahel region, and renewed conflict and security concerns in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Somalia.

Turkey remains the country hosting the largest number of internationally displaced people, with over 3 million, mostly Syrian refugees escaping conflict in their homeland.

There are a lot of risks involved. At least 16 migrants trying to reach Europe drowned in the Mediterranean Sea when their small dinghy capsized off the coast of Libya. It’s the latest mishap to underscore the deadly risks facing those who flee the war-afflicted North African country.

Three dead bodies were found floating in the water, including one Syrian man and woman, and at least 13 other migrants were missing and presumed drowned. In the years since the 2011 uprising that ousted and killed longtime dictator Muammar Gadhafi, war-torn Libya has emerged as the dominant transit point for migrants hoping to get to Europe from Africa and the Middle East. Smugglers often pack desperate families into ill-equipped rubber boats that stall and founder along the perilous Central Mediterranean route. At least 20,000 people have died in those waters since 2014.

There is more agony in store for the refugees. Migrants rescued at sea and returned to Libya routinely land in detention centres notorious for torture, extortion and abuse. Amnesty International revealed in a report that thousands of migrants have been forcibly disappeared from unofficial militia-run detention centres.

Early this month, a group of Syrian asylum seekers were left on the streets of Madrid after being deported from the UK to Spain.

The 11 men, all of whom recently crossed the English Channel to Britain, were forcibly removed from the UK on a charter flight on Thursday.

Then there is the issue of child refugees. A 2016 Unicef report says there are nearly 50 million child migrants worldwide, 28 million who have been fleeing from violence.

Greece’s prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis appealed for more international help for its migrant crisis after feeling abandoned by fellow EU countries that closed their doors to refugees washing up on Greek shores.

On top of all this comes the comment from Poland’s President Andrzej Duda that migrants fleeing conflict should stay as close as possible to their home countries. He was criticising proposals for an overhaul of the European Union’s migration and asylum rules. Unforeseen and unfortunate occurrences only aggravate their predicament. Around 12,000 people were left homeless when a fire swept through an overcrowded camp in Lesbos in early September.

Even before the fire, the humanitarian situation in the camp reportedly deteriorated to the extent it has become a symbol of a European asylum system in meltdown.

One of the survivors told the BBC, “When I was in my country, Congo, and people spoke of Europe, I thought of human rights… But from what we see here, I don’t think Europe exists anymore. Look at the conditions our children are in. This is living hell.”

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