Sav­ing our drown­ing hu­man­ity

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNATIONAL - PETER SUTHER­LAND [The writer, United Na­tions Special rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the sec­re­tary-gen­eral for in­ter­na­tional mi­gra­tion, is for­mer di­rec­tor gen­eral of the World Trade Or­gan­i­sa­tion, EU com­mis­sioner for com­pe­ti­tion, and at­tor­ney gen­eral of Ire­land. ©Pro­jec

IN the last week of May, at least 1,050 mi grants and asy­lum seek­ers died in the Medi ter­ranean Sea, vic­tims of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity’s un­will­ing­ness to ad­dress the needs of the world’s most vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple.

More than 2,800 mi­grants died at sea so far this year — up nearly 40 per cent from the same pe­riod in 2015.

Al­most all those deaths could have been pre­vented. With ev­ery life that is ex­tin­guished, we are los­ing a bit of our hu­man­ity. Clearly, the in­ter­na­tional re­sponse to the refugee cri­sis has done lit­tle to mit­i­gate it.

The surge of peo­ple risk­ing their lives to cross from North Africa has con­firmed that, re­gard­less of tar­geted ar­range­ments like that be­tween the Euro­pean Union and Turkey, flows of peo­ple across the Mediter­ranean are set to con­tinue.

That should come as no sur­prise. The mi­grants from North Africa who have reached the shores of Italy fled war in Iraq and Syria, forced con­scrip­tion in Eritrea, per­ma­nent con­flict in Afghanistan and crim­i­nal vi­o­lence in other parts of Africa.

Some may not tech­ni­cally be refugees, as de­fined by the 1951 Refugee Con­ven­tion. But nearly all of them are flee­ing dire sit­u­a­tions caused by in­ter­state con­flict, in­ter­nal strife, natural dis­as­ters and eco­nomic col­lapse.

What­ever their le­gal sta­tus, they de­serve dig­nity and pro­tec­tion from abuse — and for ev­ery ef­fort to be made to en­sure their safety. It is time to ac­cept the facts: walls, fences and pa­trolling war­ships can­not stop the flight of des­per­ate peo­ple.

What they do is ag­gra­vate the dan­gers mi­grants face on their jour­ney and ben­e­fit the smug­glers who prey on them; last year alone, hu­man traf­fick­ers earned $5-6 bil­lion from mi­grants cross­ing into Europe.

With nearly 60 mil­lion peo­ple dis­placed world­wide, in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion and, above all, political lead­er­ship is ur­gently re­quired to make mi­gra­tion safer. To put a stop to the need­less deaths, the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity must step up or­derly re­set­tle­ment pro­grammes and pro­vide safe routes for asy­lum seek­ers.

The global an­nual tar­get for the re­set­tle­ment of refugees is 100,000 — far short of what is needed. And, even so, EU mem­ber states and other de­vel­oped coun­tries have failed to ful­fil even that lim­ited obli­ga­tion. Much more must be done. The sit­u­a­tion in the Mediter­ranean re­gion is chal­leng­ing, but not hope­less. The EU has a pop­u­la­tion of more than 500 mil­lion and great wealth; it will not be un­done by tak­ing care of a mil­lion — or even a few mil­lion — asy­lum seek­ers.

It can­not turn its back on mi­grants left stranded for months in un­suit­able fa­cil­i­ties in Greece and Italy, while their chil­dren are de­nied the right to an ed­u­ca­tion.

Rather than pan­der­ing to fear-mon­ger­ing xeno­phobes, the EU’s lead­ers must speak out and cor­rect er­ro­neous per­cep­tions about mi­grants.

They must not only clearly de­clare that the de­vel­oped world has an obli­ga­tion to pro­tect the world’s refugees; they must also ex­plain why aid­ing refugees, if done well, can help build health­ier com­mu­ni­ties and stronger economies.

In a re­cent re­port, the econ­o­mist Philippe Le­grain demon­strated how coun­tries that in­vest in new­com­ers’ suc­cess­ful and rapid in­te­gra­tion into the work­force can, within five years, reap eco­nomic ben­e­fits that are twice as large as the ini­tial out­lay.

Ac­com­plish­ing this re­quires a com­pre­hen­sive strat­egy that en­ables mi­grants to use their skills to be­come pro­duc­tive mem­bers of so­ci­ety as they re­build their lives.

Ger­many seems to un­der­stand this, hav­ing re­cently com­mit­ted to spend­ing more than $100 bil­lion to in­te­grate refugees over the next five years.

It also re­cently adopted an in­te­gra­tion law de­signed to pro­vide lan­guage skills, pre­vent the for­ma­tion of ghet­tos, and ease ac­cess to the job mar­ket for re­cent ar­rivals.

It is im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that many mi­grants who are not of­fi­cially refugees can some­times be at risk in their home coun­tries. Next week, the Mi­grants in Coun­tries in Cri­sis Ini­tia­tive — a suc­cess­ful ex­am­ple of min­i­mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism, led by the United States and the Philip­pines — will un­veil new guide­lines to help states im­prove their abil­ity to pro­tect mi­grants (re­gard­less of their sta­tus) be­fore, dur­ing and af­ter the emer­gence of a cri­sis.

Sim­i­larly, at the G-7’s sum­mit in Ja­pan in May, the lead­ers of the world’s ma­jor ad­vanced economies pledged to “in­crease global as­sis­tance to meet im­me­di­ate and longterm needs of refugees and other dis­placed per­sons as well as their host com­mu­ni­ties”.

Funds must be made avail­able to help host and tran­sit coun­tries house, ed­u­cate and em­ploy mi­grants in dis­tress. Hu­man be­ings have al­ways crossed borders, and as the world be­comes ever more glob­alised, they will con­tinue to do so. Dem­a­gogues claim that open­ing the door to mi­grants trans­forms host na­tions be­yond recog­ni­tion; in fact, the im­pact of mi­gra­tion is strongly pos­i­tive.

Mi­grants re­ju­ve­nate ag­ing so­ci­eties and cre­ate much-needed eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity. Turn­ing Europe into a fortress, un­der­min­ing freedom of move­ment across the con­ti­nent, tight­en­ing borders and ig­nor­ing le­gal — as well as moral — obli­ga­tions to pro­tect the vul­ner­a­ble is a fail­ing strat­egy.

It undermines the EU’s hard-won gains and poses heavy costs to the world econ­omy. Ac­tion is needed now. Sum­mer is just be­gin­ning. Un­less the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity pro­vides a clear al­ter­na­tive, more mi­grants can be ex­pected to crowd onto rick­ety ves­sels and risk their lives to reach Europe. For the sake of their hu­man­ity and ours, it is time to stop the car­nage. —Cour­tesy: TJT

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.