One refugee is one too many
THE STATISTICS are staggering. The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) puts the number of forcibly displaced people at a whopping 65.6 million worldwide, with 22.5 million international refugees globally. The agency says these statistics mean that “28 300 people a day are forced to flee their homes and countries because of conflict and persecution”.
And as we commemorated World Refugee Day yesterday, and in the era of Trumpism, and crises in Syria and other war-torn countries, we mustn’t forget the refugee crisis on our own doorstep.
Uganda is a humanitarian crisis waiting to happen, with nearly a million refugees in that country. It hosts the highest number of refugees in Africa, who keep streaming in from war-ravished countries such as South Sudan. At least 2 000 new refugees are believed to arrive each day.
Meanwhile, Tanzania, next door, is also facing a flood of refugees, mostly from Burundi in the troubled Great Lakes region. According to the UNHCR, Nyarugusu refugee camp has become the third largest in the world.
Here is South Africa, nearly 122 000 refugees and just over a million asylum seekers arrived to find a better life, according to the 2015 figures supplied by the UNHCR. It says that last year, South Africa hosted 91 043 refugees and 218 299 asylum seekers.
The numbers are a drop in the ocean compared to what countries like Tanzania and Uganda are dealing with, but one person fleeing their country to seek refuge here, in 2017, is one too many. We must put an end to conflict, and our leaders must deal firmly with their peers who are destroying their countries and forcing thousands to flee.
The refugee crisis needs more attention from the continent’s leaders. Humanitarian organisations alone cannot cope with the demand to care for these displaced people.
Tomorrow and on Friday, a summit in Kampala to drum up support to deal with the crisis and raise the much-needed funds will hopefully bring us closer to dealing with the challenges.
While we wait for leadership, we must also help fellow Africans fleeing persecution in their own countries. Uganda and Tanzania alone cannot bear the brunt of the refugee crisis. We must all join hands and help. If there is a time for African solutions to African problems, this is it.