- Published on Wednesday, 25 April 2012 16:48
- Written by Fabienne van Sloten
With developed countries facing an influx of refugees, can a permanent solution be found to 'spread the load'?
“Nicely” hidden away in one place, scattered around in another. It may come to no surprise that nowadays we actually speak of “warehousing” refugees.
The over 43 million people abandoning their former lives to find safety and stability abroad are often welcomed with the same kind of generous hospitality you would give a cold-blooded criminal.
Though the member states set out such noble and amiable goals in the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol, none of them is all too eager when it comes to paying the bill and carrying the economic burden of it all. However by closing their doors, they end up cutting themselves on the broken windows.
If a person meets the requirements of the convention, he becomes the responsibility of the international community until the circumstances in his country of origin have changed. But often the cause of refugees’ displacement is a deep and fundamental problem that takes years to resolve.
On the run and with limited means, refugees generally seek safety in a state as close as possible. This is why 70 up to 80% of the world’s refugee population can be found in Africa and the Middle East, who end up paying most of the bill of this “global refugee crisis”.
And so it seems that the honour of being a noble state is “granted” mostly to developing countries. South Africa, for example, annually receives the same amount of refugee seekers as the whole of Europe.
In developed countries, such as my home country Belgium, the government sees a refugee as a rather undesired guest who prolongs his unannounced visit just a tad too long for their liking.
Instead of acknowledging our international duty towards refugees, we seem to consider ourselves to be the example of generosity when granting a person refugee status.
Trying to avoid the destabilizing effects of the flood of refugees, we see how states like Australia start to act as the characters of the Von Trier movie “Dogville”: our generosity requires more and more from the refugee and the words of the Convention lose their stretch.
Even the once so noble South Africa starts to crawl itself into the superficial protection of a restrictive Convention interpretation. While I recognize the need for a good migration policy, I also sense the dangers of a too restricted policy that denies people who are truly in need.
Groups of desperate people are left without the assistance they require and end up in the hands of human traffickers and criminal organisations. Therefore, I advocate the long-term solution that exists out of a better division of the international refugee burden.
The other approach merely consists out of firstly pushing the weight to other states that will eventually succumb and out of secondly forcing refugees into the tiny corners of society where they disappear out of the immediate public eye.
Closing doors seems like a quick solution, but who wants a house full of glass and bloodstains?