We can use 2015 as a test of the world’s ability and willingness to help millions of refugees as we practice our preparation for displacement due to global warming. So far the world has failed to satisfactorily resettle and accept the displaced millions from the wars in Syria, Afghanistan and numerous other abandoned homelands.
United Nation’s statistics from the end of 2014 pegged the level of the world’s refugees at 59.5 million people. Of these 19.5 million were refugees that have actually left their home countries, 38.2 million who have been displaced from their homes and 1.8 million that have formally applied for asylum in another country.
The displaced Syrian citizens represent some 7.6 million people. This total is how many people and families have lost their homes. At least 4.3 million of the 7.6 million were forced to leave the country as refugees.
A July 2015 article in the Guardian identifies “Turkey is now the largest refugee-hosting country in the world, sheltering 1,805,255 Syrians. Lebanon has taken in 1,172,735 Syrian refugees, Jordan 629,128, Iraq 249,726 and Egypt 132,375. About 24,055 Syrians are refugees elsewhere in North Africa. The latest UN figures do not include the more than 270,000 Syrians applying for asylum in Europe.”
We have forced the neighboring countries to keep their borders open. They provide temporary shelter and sustenance for these refugees. This allows everyone to avoid opening their doors and actually helping these people resettle in other countries. Various articles have identified limitations placed on refugees who are largely being held in refugee camps set up in the various counties.
For example, because Turkey offers sanctuary but no permanent residency all refugees cannot work legally in Turkey. In the EU there is a “Dublin” agreement that all asylum seekers must remain in their country of entry into the E.U. This causes Italy, Greece and Bulgaria to complain about their status as the countries of entry and has caused much criticism of their treatment of asylum seekers.
Many who cross lightly protected or patrolled country borders to go onward to more prosperous European Union countries complain of repeatedly being “pushed back” into Turkey. These refugees have been caught by police and have been returned to Turkey. This has most often happened at the hands of Bulgarian border guards.
This issue is fluid and very topical at this moment because of the flood of refugees coming out of Syria and looking for access and safe passage to various countries in the E.U. Violence has erupted in Germany because the country expects to accept and resettle some 800,000 refugees this year. This has proven to be very controversial amongst Germany’s citizens.
Chancellor Angela Merkel was heckled in the town of Heidenau, Germany. She said that xenophobia would not be tolerated. Merkel was quoted as saying in a speech to the crowd, “There is no tolerance for those who are not willing to help where legal and human help is required. The more people who make that clear…the stronger we will be.”
Her speech did not silence the Prime Minister of Serbia who has said he will not close the borders of his country to refugees. Many are crossing through Serbia to Hungary where they can enter the EU if they get past the fence that Hungary is building along its border. Prime Minister Alexander Vucic of Serbia stated, “What we want to hear tomorrow from Chancellor Merkel…from Frederica Mogherini…is what is the plan?” Merkel and Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, are meeting soon in Vienna at a conference of Balkan leaders.
Some countries point to the money they have sent to help the refugee camps being set up by the neighbors of Syria. This is most common in countries that refuse to take the actual refugees as new citizens.
The most representative examples of this are the United Kingdom and the United States. The United Kingdom has maintained a policy of keeping its borders closed to refugees seeking asylum. It keeps pointing to the over £500 million pounds it has sent to the region.
The U.S. has just announced, as reported by the National Public Radio, that it will allow 5,000 to 8,000 Syrian refugees to resettle in the U.S. in 2016. It has repeatedly mentioned the over $4 billion in humanitarian aid it has sent to aid refugee resettlement. These pronouncements are meant to shift the focus away from the less than 1,000 Syrians it has accepted this year. The U.N. has identified the resettlement of refugees in the U.S. in 2014 as 73,000 people. Most of these refugees did not come from Syria but were rather from Afghanistan.
All nations of the world should be using this exodus to test the resettlement procedures they plan to use when global warming results in the displacement of many more citizens. We should be putting expectations on countries that will need additional citizens to cope with favorable weather conditions that will cause their countries to prosper.
Many of these countries are not under any pressure to accept today’s refugees and they should be. Where are Canada and the Soviet Union? How may refugees have been resettled in their territories? The money presently being spent by the U.S., U.K., and others to give temporary shelter and sustenance to refugees in camps is being wasted when it could be spent to offer refugees what they are seeking.
Resettlement could be offered to those who agree to work on public projects to build new infrastructure in their adopted countries. Countries of the world should cooperate to rebuild, or in some cases build for the first time, infrastructure for their citizens. This infrastructure could help them cope with the negative results of global warming. Countries that do not want to accept immigrants should pay others for resettlement.
At the same time these people should be trained to assume a productive job when their work on public works projects is completed. These people want a new place to settle that offers them meaningful employment and the training necessary to support their new future in their adopted countries. This is what we should be spending our dollars on rather than temporary shelter that has to be paid for year in and year out.
Frankly, no country should want to keep refugees out of their sight. This only enables them to ignore the problem. Refugees cannot be ignored when hundred of millions, yes I said hundreds of millions, migrate to areas of the world to escape climate change and just to stay alive. There will not be enough money in the world to keep the problem contained.
Present estimates of country commitments to contain climate change still allow the world’s temperature to climb between three and four degrees. This will force hundreds of millions to flee the large desert areas that will be created in southern Europe.
I cannot imagine a world in which citizens will find acceptable the total numbers of deaths from starvation just beyond their closed borders. I am hoping that today’s handling of their devastation is not indicative of the help the world will offer. I expect countries will change leadership until they have leaders who are willing to play a larger role on the world stage. In short, I am an optimist who believes we will not let our fellow man down in their hour of greatest need.
If we continue to refuse to control climate change, we must prepare to accept millions of fleeing human beings. They will be the refugees of tomorrow testing the methods, practices and statements of intent we implement and give evidence of today.
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