Space For Rent
Monday, May 9, 2016, Baishakh 26, 1423 BS, Shaban 1, 1437 Hijri

Refugee Crisis
Establishing secure and legitimate routes for asylum seekers
Ataur Rahman
Published :Monday, 9 May, 2016,  Time : 12:00 AM  View Count : 1329
The egregious violations of global human rights have become prevalent and more grievous as well as pervasive than in any other time in history. The world since the dawn of civilization has been fighting its corner to fend off humanitarian catastrophe and failed persistently. The recent humanitarian crisis of refugees cast a dark patina over our civilized achievement. The overwhelming outflow of Syrian refugees and an alarming number of internally displaced people have shaken the very fabric of global conscience, and intensified the crisis with manifold problems.
Who are the refugees and worst sufferer of manmade crisis? According to the Geneva Convention on Refugees-1951 and a subsequent protocol of 1967, a refugee is a person who seeks refuge outside his country of citizenship because of his deeply rooted fear of persecution due to religion, race, nationality, political opinion, ethnicity or for adherence to particular social or ideological group. Hence refugees are unable to ensure sanctuary in their habitual residence or owing to that fear unwilling to take protection of their own country. The descendants of refugees are not considered as refugees but in two different cases such as Palestinian refugees and Sahrawian refugees. There are more than 19.5 million refugees throughout the world. Syrian refugees, among them, become the largest group outnumbering Afghan refugees who had been the largest group for last three decades. Bordering countries bear the brunt of massive onrush of refugees. As of March 2016 Turkey alone, hosting 2.7 million Syrian refugees and 0.3 million Iraqi refugees, becomes the world's biggest refugee hosting country. This growing number of refugees and nonchalant response of political heavyweights, paucity of technical and financial support aggravated the scenario. Panic-stricken people seldom find any proper channel to accommodate themselves. More often these refugees, being desperate, tend to adopt deadly risk and usually board on rickety boat for shoring up asylum. Sometimes their fate encounters with more gloom and gets buried into water, leaving no trace for their whereabouts.
Research finds that refugees have historically tended to flee to nearby countries with ethnic kin population of cultural and linguistic commonalities and who have a history of accepting other co-ethnic refugees. Besides, refugees feel gravitated towards close geographical landscape with easily reachable bordering area where social security and legal protection are available. Greece being the main entrance to European Union (EU) countries faces the worst music of Syrian war fleeing refugees. But utterly mindless reluctance towards new EU approach of mandatory quota system for relocation of refugees by Romania, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary has inflicted a blow upon their European unity. Moreover, zero migration razor wire built by Hungary, slamming shut of border by Macedonia, Slovenia, Croatia, and Serbia, is the blatant illustration of sheer negligence. Since the German Chancellor Angela Merkel clinches to her 'open door' policy, she has been facing mounting political backlash inside her own country and garnering severe criticism from several EU leaders. It has also brought the field day for right wing populist ADF party.
But why have these been happening throughout the years? For the EU, indeed, 1.2 million asylum seekers representing 0.2 percent of the total population of European countries would be very smoothly manageable if EU implemented common asylum policy and distributed refugees fairly among its member states. But counter-intuitive situation has developed and refugees have become an overwhelming burden when all asylum seekers feel encumbered as they are forced to throng in a bottleneck pass way in one or two countries. Even, before the crisis got into impasse, greater effort for resettlement and humanitarian aid programmes would enable EU to seek viably justifiable legitimacy to internationalize the crisis mitigation and management and to ask other nations such as USA, Russia, Brazil and the Gulf States to assume a more proportionate share of responsibility. It is no wonder that the Germany citizens and other Europeans have had a sense of terrorist attack after the outbreak of two deadly terrorist attacks in Brussels and Paris. Their sense of fear is emanated from the fact that ISIS, Taliban or others religious militant groups would surreptitiously infiltrate in Europe to turmoil the continent and establish their ideology of Islamic Caliphate after the call for global Jihad by Abu Baker al Baghdadi. But most of the people risking their life to shoring in Europe are fleeing the horror of Syrian civil war and the brutal savagery of Taliban or other militant groups in Iraq and Somalia. Hence, a holistic approach for identification through screening, fingerprint registration, DNA documentation and a meticulous refugee handling system would also provide better assurance that the refugees ultimately accepted for Europe are not the militants. If these processes are followed, these will put plugs on loopholes and foil any attempt by militants to infiltrate in Europe.
Refugees harbouring dogmatic ideologies find themselves in Europe culturally awkward and feel identity crisis in a progressive religious society with cultural diversity. Massive sexual molestation of around one thousand women in central railway station in Cologne in Germany on the New Year carnival and other sexual assaults in Germany show refugees' intolerance toward cultural variety. Those incidents are not preconceived. The European should introduce the strangers with their dynamic cultural identity and wilfully assimilate them with their society. Xenophobes warn that taking refugees massively will endanger European cultural identity. The founding treaty of EU calls for societies to promote some quintessential values of 21st century like pluralism, cultural liberty, diversity, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equity. It refers that welcoming refugees and integrating them with proper dignity respect the foundation of EU.
However, the recent development of refugee crisis management through a deal signed between EU and Turkey in a meeting in Brussels on 18 March despite fierce criticism has proven itself not all encompassing. Human Rights Watch (HRW) Executive Director Kenneth Roth in a letter to EU heads of states expressed his grave concern about EU-Turkey deal terming it a colossal disregard to international law covering the rights of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. The deal treats with massive deportation of illegal refugees who have reached Greece crossing Aegean Sea whereas European convention on Human Rights prohibits any forms of collective expulsion of foreigners. Asylum seekers have the fundamental rights to have their distinctive asylum claims in a safe country. But there is a genuine risk that people will be denied the right to personal assessment because it treats all refugees in the same vain. Asylum law prohibits forceful deportation of refugee to any country that may inflict any inhuman torture, life threat, violence, forceful slavery or any sort of degrading treatment. As Turkey is not a full member of Geneva Convention, is Turkey really a safe sanctuary for refugees at all?
Things would be more dangerous if the refugees are forced back to war ravaged Syria. Finding no other means to survive the refugees may be encouraged to join or forcibly be entangled in ISIS or Al-nusrah front. The world does not expect this scenario in its worst nightmare.
Suspense and anxiety are intensifying as the shutdown of Greek route, which tempts people to attempt more perilous Mediterranean crossing to Italy. The world sees a glimmer of hope after the UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi asks for a dramatic increase in resettlement pledges to 0.48 million Syrian refugees over the next three years in a high level meeting of representatives of 92 countries in Geneva on 30 march 2016.
Due to demographic changes, over the next 25 years, the EU countries will loss 20.8 million from its working age population. According to a UN report prepared by population division in early 2000 labour force in Germany will shrink from 41 million to 21 million and Italy's 23 million to 11 million by 2050. Consequently for the upcoming generation demographic mobilization and reshuffle of manpower worldwide is a must. Hence establishing safe and legal routes for asylum seekers to EU and other countries can thus be a win-win solution for all. The refugees fleeing nightmare of death could find a new life and EU could reassure more control over its border with reviving its foundation principles.
Ataur Rahman is a free lance contributor. Email: [email protected]

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