Refugees and their Issues

Mains Marks Booster     3rd August 2023        
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  • Recently, houses of refugees who came from Pakistan, were demolished in Jaisalmer and Jodhpur regions. However, later separate land has been provided to them. 
  • Afghanistan’s people looking for Europe, Central Asia, and India (Especially minorities) because of economic, social and religious persecution.
  • People from Ukraine have been seeking shelter in different parts of Europe.
  • The Chakma and Hajong refugees: Many from the Chakma and Hajong communities—who once lived in the Chittagong hill tracts, have been living as refugees in India for more than five decades.
  • Rohingyas are seeking shelter and safety from religious persecution in Bangladesh and India.
  • Climate refugees displaced in Pakistan because of unprecedented floods of 2021.

Issues Associated with Refugees:

  • According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. 
    • Example: Rohingyas seeking shelter, safety from religious persecution in their own country.
  • The refugees also have an impact on the economy and society of their host nations. Large numbers of refugees can have a devastating impact on the host nation.
    • Example: During Liberation of Bangladesh in 1971, Lakhs of refugees came to India, which had impacted economy and society of that time.
  • They could be used by terrorist organisations, sex or slave trade etc., thus denial of basic human rights, disruption of global peace. 
    • Example: Human trafficking, ISIS using refugees as terrorist
  • It is often seen that immigrants are exploited for their cheap labour. 
    • Example: Immigrants working in the Gulf countries 
  • Immigration sometimes also becomes a social or political issue; racism is used to exploit feelings or as an excuse for current woes of the local population.
    • Example: Recent violent protests in France because of alleged racial discrimination

Why are refugee rights becoming a favour on part of the states? 

The core issue in this scenario stems from the lack of empathy within the public of the host nation and limited resources at the ground level. These core reasons manifest themselves in following ways- 

  • Viewed as a security threat: The mistrust combined with lack of awareness and misinformation creates fear and makes the local population view refugees as a security threat.
    • Example: Poland and Slovakia in Europe prohibit entry of Refugees from the Mediterranean regions. 
  • Issue of legal enforcement limits enforceability of rights: The limitation of international laws makes refugee rights contingent upon the discretion and perception of the host country.
    • Example: many European countries tend to be more sympathetic to LGBTQIA+ refugees when compared to victims of war crimes in African countries. 
  • Limited capacity of the host: Fulfilment of all rights of refugees is dependent upon the capacity of resources within the host countries. 
    • Example: in many developing countries Right to Housing cannot be fulfilled for the domestic population, guaranteeing the same claim for refugees becomes difficult and hence becomes selective. 
  • Politicisation of the issue: The image of the refugees, the associated fear psychosis, and political implications of assimilating the refugees leads to politicisation of the issue. This has led to the emergence of the idea of selective humanitarianism
  • Mistrust as a norm: Lack of empathy with the refugees creates mistrust about the culture, situation, and genuineness of their claim for asylum. 
  • Perception as an economic competitor: Limited opportunities combined with the image of a refugee as a ‘freeloader from the other nation’ creates a perception of them being unworthy of rights. 
    • This makes ‘grant of rights’ a favour which is subject to collective sympathy. 

Way forward to securing the rights of refugees

  • Generating awareness about refugee situations and their rights: Creating awareness about the situation would translate to empathy for refugees and fading of the prevalence of fear against them. This may lead to more social acceptance and faster assimilation. 
  • Making objective procedures and authorities accountable: The anxiety and uncertainty faced by the refugees can be ameliorated to a large extent if procedures for granting asylum are made objective and clearly communicated. 
  • Also, making the criteria objective could be a first step in holding the authorities accountable and thus moving towards a rights-based approach. 
  • Creating an effective transition mechanism: The resolution of the refugee issue remains complicated considering its social, economic, and political implications and thus takes time. 
  • In this scenario, it becomes important that an effective transition mechanism be created that can provide at least limited rights to refugees. 
  • Strengthening the system of refugee camps: The system of refugee camps has emerged as an effective solution and hence should be adequately funded and managed. 
  • Cooperative approach among institutions: The capacity of states to fulfill the rights of refugees is constrained. For the realization of these rights, it is crucial that the host country, the country of origin, the group of refugees, and the entities active on the ground like NGOs, social groups, etc. work together.
  • Link with SDGs for making rights accountable: Nonfulfillment of rights directly affects the realization of SDG 16 (Peace, Justice, and strong institutions) and indirectly affects other SDGs. 
  • Efforts should be made to make the authorities more accountable by linking refugee rights to SDG targets. 

The essence of the resolution of the refugee crisis lies in the economic cost of refuge and its socio-political implications and the moral economy of asylum (Providing protection to refugees and the extent of humanitarianism among the host). Managing these two factors could provide a long-term solution to this crisis. 

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