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Politics & Policy
Refugees have no place to go

    Society
A rough ride for the consumer
Column
For the record
Politics & Policy
Refugees have no place to go

Nations must take the example of Germany who hosts the largest number of refugees

By Syed Naeem Uddin
August 02 - 08, 1999

The next century is about to start as the final battle between the human beings and the nature, perhaps. The advancement in the technology both in computers and communication will not leave any distance. The happening of the one corner on the earth will leave less effect even at a place located at the shortest distance because of the self security and the increasing business of the people. The current millennium has left behind millions of refugees, the inventions of deadly weapons, millions of innocents' death, casualties and injuries. During this century, a large number of states got liberation and made the world to feel their emergence. I am of the opinion that this century has brought difficulties, disappointments and sorrows for the entire humanity. The dreadful world wars, Iran-Iraq conflict, Afghan conflict, Indo-Pak tension on the issue of Kashmir, collapse of the Soviet Union, the fight between Iraq and the US-led allied forces. The last decade of the century saw the plunge of the economies globally and at once, the trend of marketing and management somersaulted. Aggressive marketing of Japan and the European Union countries went defensive. The mergers and the alliances are among some of the cost reducing measures, and millions of people were forced to loose their jobs.

As far as the advancement and achievements in the computer technology and communications are concerned, the human community has earned tremendous success and even the privacy, which is the most basic right of the human beings, looks like a dream in this era of technology. The invasion of newly known disease and the rebirth of the bygone days maladies is also a tragedy for us. The success of the life saving drugs is -0 if we compare the deaths and the life-long disabilities from the inventions of human beings, in the form of lethal weapons, wars and terrorism. The work on the human welfare goes all futile and fruitless because of the non-funding and the zest of the super powers to dominate the international scene of the world politics. The living standard of the common men is fast de-grading and in the region of the South East Asia and under developed countries it has become almost impossible to both ends meet and to keep moving their lives respectfully. These countries are those who are frenziedly spending on their large armies and also includes the name of those countries where corruption and the law of the jungle has become order of the day. Where the head of the states are multi millionaire and contributes a lion's share in placing their countries atop of the corruption list. This is for sure that around 75% of population in Pakistan is living in the worst condition like refugees because of not access to the hygienically approved drinking water, sewerage system, transportation, shelter, under loadshedding when the mercury shoots up to 42.

Who is a refugee?

Simply, the people who live peacefully and do not share in the war crimes. The people who love peace and are the enemies of the hatreds. They cross the border of their homeland in order to save the lives of their children and the love ones. To cross the border line is not only a shift in the dwelling place, but the entire life and generation become the sufferer.

Although the distance is matter, but some times only a few miles distance change all the values including culture, family values, language, weather, politics and the laws of the land. When the border is crossed, in order to save the life of not only for himself but to protect the love ones as well, this decision gives its effects for the rest of the life and a new generation is born with the sense of destitution and with no identity. Today, the population of refugees worldwide, which is more than 22 million, is rapidly increasing. If we put this population of refugees altogether it will equalize the population of Canada or Kenya. The refugees suffer from hunger, fatigue, humiliation and grief. What happens when people take refuge in the other land? The very first priority is food specially for the infants. As the people who take refuge already suffer deficiency of food, and when the less-fed mothers feed their babies a sick generation comes into the existence. To be adjusted well the first victim is the nature because the trees are cut to make the place a living spot. To heat the food dry wood is used and all these things are posing serious threat to the human life.

Environment and the refugees

The environmental hazards are increasing with every passing minute. Global warming and the unexpected changes in the weather the world over are very little for the human beings. As the population of the refugees live with out any proper availability of the basic human needs the refugee's affected areas face the problems of deforestation, soil erosion, and depletion and the pollution of the water resources. The close-by residents, ngo's and the welfare related association are required to come ahead to cope with the problems because of the limited resources, immigration rules and the political complexities.

The agencies like unhcr are well aware of the refugee's needs which includes fuelwood, building material and the sources of sanitation. The other thing is the refugee's conflicts with the local residents who, accept the refugees whole heartedly with the passage of time and some time do not accept even after decades. On a global scale, the impacts of refugees on the environment are significant. When the crisis of the refugees was at the height in Tanzania in 1994-96, a total of 570 square kilometers of forest affected, of which 167 square kilometers was severely deforested. An environmental impact assessment carried out in Zimbabwe in 1994 showed a reduction of 58 per cent in the woodland cover around camps. Yet, countries like Cote d'Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of Congo experience higher levels of habitat loss each year through uncontrolled logging and the clearance of the land for the agriculture, 2,900 and 1,800 square kilometers of forest per annum, respectively.

The above narration does not mean to hold refugees responsible for the destruction of the environment, but to make people conscious about the meaningful ways which could help, both the refugees and the local habitants, to overcome environmental problems. For most of the countries, the loss of any forest may be a major issue because of the habitat degradation, the loss of the eco-system functioning and, often, reduced levels of income or a lower quality of life.

Unhcr is very much concerned about the state and well being of the environment around refugee camps and the resettlement areas. Experience has shown that the welfare of people — whether refugees or the local people, is closely linked with the well being of the environment. In fact the two cannot be separated.

The refugees' state is never alike. Some times the rapid calamities do not let the people even to have their love ones with them. This may be the natural disaster like earthquakes, thundering and lighting which do not allow people to think. They leave behind all of their belongings and get into the unknown land empty-handed. The political and the war affected people get some time for exodus.

Balkan conflict

In 1992, fighting broke out in Bosnia Herzegovina and Germany emerged as the savior of the Balkan refugees. The German face towards welcoming the refugees was very positive. Its Consular officials began wielding their visa stamps boldly, giving tens of thousands legal entry to Germany. For Bosnia who simply fled without the papers in hand, Germany forswore deportation. And in Bonn, the Ministry for social affairs offered all the Bosnians a welfare benefits schedule as generous as anything available to the German citizens. In the end, Germany has sheltered up to 400,000 Bosnians from Europe's bloodiest fighting since World War II. "No other country has reached this level of generosity," said Judith Kumin, the un Refugee Agency's representative in Germany.

The Bosnian conflict claimed more than 250,000 lives and displaced an estimated three million people.

 

The refugees were accommodated as follow:

Australia

14,000

Austria

52,000

Belgium

5,600

Bulgaria

250

Canada

11,640

Croatia

228,000

Czech Republic

6,370

Denmark

17,500

Finland

2,200

France

15,900

Germany

350,000

Greece

150

Ireland

370

Hungary

8,900

Italy

54,600

Liechtenstein

400

Luxembourg

1,000

Netherlands

45,000

New Zealand

200

Norway

11,000

Pakistan

380

Poland

240

Portugal

60

Slovak Republic

1,900

Spain

3,7000

Sweden

48,500

Switzerland

32,100

Turkey

30,000

United Kingdom

7,000

United States

12,820

Rupm Yugoslavia 300,000

As the above figure of 350,000 shows that Germany hosted the largest number of refugees even more than the rest of the Euroland collectively.

The German generosity does not end here. When the Bosnians were welcomed in Germany, each unemployed Bosnian adult qualified for a welfare payment of $ 300 per month; each child can receive $190. About two-thirds of the Bosnians in Germany receive such welfare. Although the exact statistics is not available but around $ 7 billion per year were spent on this operation.

The recent crisis of Kosovo is also witnessing the German generosity. This crisis gain is demanding from the human race to think about the future of the refugees. The role of Germany again needs to be appreciated as Germany currently has the rotating European Union Presidency and the Interior Minister, Otto Schily, has been using the powers to push the European Union in accepting the Kosovo and Albanian refugees across Western Europe. The German enforcement has made Britain ready to accept 80,000 Albanians.

With more than 700,000 Albanians forced to flee Kosovo in April this year and with the influx into Macedonia. The unhcr's authorities are pressing the other countries to take in more refugees.

The other problems include, loneliness & destitution, rehabilitation and the remembrance of the love once. The unhcr's efforts to solve these problems deserve to be eulogized as they provide the audio and video cassettes of the other family members of the refugees. Because of frustration and fatigue, mental disorder also takes over refugees as the problem seems to be unending sometimes and resulted in the conflicts with the locals and the border guards.

Muslim refugees

Muslims form the world's largest refugees population. More than 50 per cent of the world's 22 million refugees are Muslims and more than 70 per cent of the 49 million displaced are also Muslims, this was stated by Mohammad Bukri, the Regional representative of the un High Commissioner for Refugees (unhcr).

The above figure of 70 per cent dropped slightly after the return of the Afghan refugees from the parts of Pakistan, Iran and other nearby countries. Bukri went on to say, "The return of the Afghans is in fact a tragedy because you all know well the situation of the Afghanistan."

Refugees in Africa

As the region, rich in minerals, Africa was made as a dark region for the international community by the powerful European and the American media. So the people of Africa are still living wild life and only a little part of Africa, comparatively is well civilized and cultured. Thanks to Nelson Mandela who broke the ice of slavery and put the African region on the route to civilization.

In Africa, poor prospects for alleviating the suffering of the refugees, returnees and displaced people in Africa marred commemorations of the African refugee while celebrating the African refugees day. The Cairo based African Society is serving the interest of the refugees across the African continent. In 1995, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, Mustafa Djemali, the Organization's Representative in Cairo said that there are estimated seven million refugees across the African continent. The Organization of the African Unity (OAu) and the unhcr did their very best efforts to provide relief to the Rwandan refugees who are around five million.

The refugees, returnees and displaced people from war-torn Liberia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda and Somalia faced starvation and ultimate death as the resources in the neighboring countries were very limited and the shortage of funds and other problems for unhcr hampered the rehabilitation of the refugees. In Africa, Egypt remained the major country in hosting the refugees from the African countries including Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia. There are more than 7,000 refugees in Egypt, alone.

Problems in accepting the refugees

Worth mentioning here is that the majority of the world's refugees is found in the marginal regions of the poor, developing countries. The protection of the natural resources sometimes comes to an stake over night with the arrival of the refugees. The environmental problems are fast rising and "safeguarding the environment is one of the foundations of peace and security. "Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of the United Nations, was quoted as saying. "If we do the analysis of the countries who host the refugee we see if a government is failed to cope with the refugees problems successfully, it succumb itself under the anarchy and chaos. The best example is the exodus of the people of the Afghan crisis. The two deadliest elements of heroin and klashnikovs were introduced after the arrival of the Afghan refugees which later on, went on rampage and uncontrolled. The rehabilitation of the refugees is not really an easy task when the economy of the hosting country is already jeopardized."

As discussed earlier the minimizing number of the forests are also caused by the refugees from across the border. If the immigration rules are flexible and the corruption is on then the refugees who come with the advantage of their country's unrest, make their interests served by the local administration.

What next

As the global conflicts leave a very large number of people desolate and their generation born with no identity, this has become an unavoidable truth to sit around the table in order to chalk out the policies for the rehabilitation and the settlement of the refugees. In this connection a massive campaign is needed to be launched so that we could save our tomorrow because our future is quite uncertain after the increasing danger of the nuclear war.