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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Refugee Crisis

Today I attended in SOAS an event called "Forced to Flee" about the globally and internally forcibly displaced people. The director of operations in ICRC talked about the Middle East and the fact that more than 20 states in that region are actors in the current crisis. After the end of the discussion, while we were having drinks in the reception afterwards, I had the chance to talk to the panel and asked them about the issues which they had raised in the seminar hall. When the director talked about the Middle East, I thought of the Gulf countries, with abundance of wealth to accommodate the refugees from Syria, Iraq and other war-torn countries. Instead of fleeing toward Europe in a deadly journey, in which many lost their lives, refugees could have easily escaped to neighboring countries, with whom they share language and culture. It is only convenient to everyone to accommodate refugees in these countries, instead of having one or two European countries welcoming those who survived the deadly journey, while the others grew creative in closing their borders.

The gentleman was reluctant in giving me an answer but he told me that the Gulf countries were ready to pay every refugee a ticket to send them away, rather than accommodate them within their borders. I was not shocked by the answer. I actually expected it, but was searching for confirmation. It was one of the observations that bombard the social media upon the breakdown of the refugee crisis. Many users in these websites asked similar questions, as it is still a mystery to the public everywhere why countries rich as Kuwait Emarat, Qatar, Suadia Arabia  and Oman abandon their fellow Arabs in times of crisis, while they could have easily accommodate them?! Is it because these countries are involved in a sectarian cold-war in the region, and considering people are fleeing from Shia dominant countries, the sunni-dominant countries don't want to accommodate shias from Iraq and Syria? It is a possibility, but considering the fact that many of the refugees have fled from Sunni-dominant areas in Iraq as well in Syria does not support this narrative.

While many European countries have lost the higher moral ground after closing their borders and showing xenophobic and Islamophobic policies against refugees, it does not mean they can't point fingers and question the attitude and policies of the gulf countries! But apparently what these countries are paying to keep these refugees away from their borders is enough to silence any protests. However, the reasons why they want these refugees away are still unknown, and there is no sound explanation for gulf countries silence and passivity in this crisis. The weird thing is that there is not much questioning about it.

The other issue raised in the seminar is that a representative from the UN said that there was no sound penalty for the countries which didn't abide by the refugee international laws and regulations. She also mentioned that the UN often supports governments they shouldn't support in the first place. She brought the example of Sudan, but everything she mentioned applied to Iraq, where state-system was dysfunctional since 2003. I approached her and asked her about my country and what could the UN do to make things better. Apparently, there was nothing much to do to make the Iraqi government eliminate the militias functioning intact in the country with no seeming objection from the government. She told me the problem was that my government needed these militia in fighting ISIS and thus, it wouldn't be easy to disarm and dismantle these armed groups, even with the fact that everyone knew that they actually terrorize citizens in the middle and south of Iraq!

She told me that the UN was aware that half of the displaced Iraqis were not escaping ISIS, but the terror of the militia in the middle and the south, the Islamization of the country and the corruption of the government. However, the UN would not be able to stop that, and continue to support the government that caused these displacement. She mentioned, though, that if Iraqis would speak in one voice in opposing the government, there would be hope to convince the UN to step up and do something, maybe!

She also referred to the role of security council to observe global peace; however, the security council decision were often in the hand of the five permanent members in the council. These five members often pronounce different views over crucial issues, as they did over the Iraq. (Apparently the mess they caused with military intervention in Iraq taught them not to repeat the same mistake with Libya, but have they done the right thing there?!) Today, the US and Russia are divided over Syria, meanwhile millions of Syrians are displaced, dying or living in humiliation around different European countries! Millions of Iraqis, since 2003, lack any sense of security and 30% of 30 millions of them live under poverty line!

To add insult to injury, next week there is a possibility that the new leader of one of the strongest country in the world, a permanent member in the security council, is going to be Donald Trump! The disaster we call Trump is not going to affect the destiny of the US, but because of the role the US play in global issues, a man like Trump will have a say in the most urgent issues worldwide, a man like Trump will have a say in the affairs of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and the rest of the war-torn countries.

After what I have heard today from the panel, the world picture is only getting grimmer. With Brexit, motivated mostly by xenophobic sentiments, and one of the strongest countries cheering a man like Trump as their new leader, I don't think there is light at the end of the tunnel.


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