One refugee is one too many

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

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.

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