The Migrant Crisis

In a world where human rights and values are at the forefront, many view such ideas as being on par with other basic necessities such as food and water
In a world where human rights and values are at the forefront, many view such ideas as being on par with other basic necessities such as food and water

Freedom. Security. Protection.

In a world where human rights and values are at the forefront, many view such ideas as being on par with other basic necessities such as food and water, the very basic necessities we require by virtue of being human. Nations around the globe have strived to ensure that all humans enjoy social, political and economical rights since the human rights catastrophes that took place throughout the 19th century.

Yet in 2015 we have seen that such attempts have not been fruitful and not all enjoy these rights. From near-daily breaches at the Euro Tunnel in Calais to the frequent capsizing of boats carrying extraordinary numbers of migrants, the 2015 refugee crisis has not only been an eye-opener for Europe, which has suffered from such crises since World War II, but also for other nations around the world. Such incidents have been fuelled by an exodus of migrants who have suffered from war, persecution and economic instability. Migrants from Eastern Europe seek economic prosperity in wealthier nations; refugees from Syria seek safety away from civil war, while minorities in Iraq such as the Yazidis seek protection and safety away from the stranglehold of ISIS. Since the end of 2014, there are now estimated to be 59.5 million forcibly displaced people around the globe; a figure which has increased by a staggering 40% since 2011 and which is now the highest since World War II. Despite Europe receiving a disproportionate amount of media attention over the extensive influx of migrants, the bulk of migrants have actually been hosted by developing countries, with the figure being estimated at 86% at the end of 2014, with the least-developing nations providing asylum for a monumental 25% of refugees. More than 4 million Syrians are estimated to have sought refuge in other nations; with only 300,000 having taken refuge in Europe. Afghan refugees are estimated to be at 2.6 million with approximately only 27,000 seeking refuge in European nations.

Syrian Cause

The Syrian refugee crisis is one of concern due to its complexity and particular enormity. To understand this, one needs to understand how the Syrian Civil War started and grew to the stage at which it is now. The period of time from which the unrest rapidly phased from nationwide protests to a full-blown insurrection, and eventually civil war, was only a few months. It started early in the spring of 2011, in parallel to the Arab Spring, which was also developing at an alarming rate. The primary opposition groups are the Free Syrian Army, which was the first rebel group to take up arms, and also the Islamic Front, which was formed in 2013. One controversial, yet not surprising, move during these events was the support that the Syrian government received from the terrorist organisation, Hezbollah. This further deepened the growing refugee crisis in Syria due to Hezbollah’s violent acts of terror.

Another controversial decision, one of the Syrian government, which also resulted in a spike in the number of Syrian refugees was the decision to use chemical weapons. Such illegitimate acts of war resulted in a mentality of fear amongst the Syrian civilians thus further adding to the number of refugees as a result of the imminent threat to their lives. Over the past four years, the war has grown in complexity. Not only is there an ongoing civil war between the forces loyal to Bashar Al-Assad and the rebel Free Syrian Army Alliance, but there is constant infighting between other rebel groups resulting in more being created; for example, the al-Nusra Front, Jund Al-Aqsa, Jaysh al-Jihad to name but a few. A group that had made considerable gains during the civil war and is now the biggest enemy, in terms of terror organisations, facing the globe is the so-called Islamic state. The group went from an unknown and relatively small group to a terrorist organisation which now is estimated to have more than 100,000 fighters and with considerable control of large parts of Syria and some of Iraq.

Refugee camp in Greece
A refugee camp in Greece

A large percentage of the Syrian refugees have taken refuge in neighbouring countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. Approximately 2 million Syrians have migrated to Turkey, 1.2 million to Lebanon and 600,000 to Jordan. These are vast numbers of refugees compared to what European nations have taken in. For instance, the UK has only resettled 5,000 refugees. Despite the stark difference in development and resources available, the lesser-developed countries have been more willing to help resettle refugees. This shows that Europe is facing only a small percentage of the problems posed by the crisis and it is indeed of a global scale, rather than just European. However, this point is opposed by many, as they argue that due to Syrians not being allowed to legally work in Turkey, many will try to permanently resettle in Europe in the longer term and that the actual migrant crisis is yet to hit Europe.

An Afghan Element

Those who argue that the migrant crisis is largely European use Afghanistan as a key example. Until last year, Afghan refugees were the world’s largest refugee population at an estimated 2.6 million. One astounding fact is that this refugee population is around 10% of Afghanistan’s entire population. A recent report from UNHCR (the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) stated that around 40,000 refugees had sought asylum in Europe up until August of this year. According to the Afghan passport department, there are now 2,000 passports issued each day since some European countries, amongst them Germany, announced that they would accept refugees and some of the claims made. Although this aspect of the migrant crisis is of a legal character, this will put strains on many countries in the years to come. Those Afghans who resettle in European countries that are part of the EU, such as Germany, may in years to come migrate to EU countries with better employment options once they receive citizenship due to the EU’s policy of open borders.

Then there is also the problem of the Afghans who opt for the illegal option if they do not receive a passport or do not have the funds to do so. Some recent reports claim that around 8,000 Afghans are crossing into Iran from one border crossing alone. This number is likely to be higher given that Afghanistan has numerous border points and also non-secure borders. Many will seek to travel to Europe for permanent resettlement. A failing economy, which is granting the Taliban further power and leading to an increased number of attacks on civilians, is further prompting Afghans to seek security in other nations, especially in Europe. The large flow of Afghan migrants will not only affect Europe but Afghanistan itself, as there is the problem of a waning number of professionals in Afghanistan, for the reason that salaries in Afghanistan are at an all-time low and falling employment options which is resulting in the ‘brain-drain’. In the long term, this will affect systems such as healthcare and the legal structure.

Global or European?

Syrian refugee protest
Syrian refugees strike in front of a railway station in Budapest, Mstyslav Chernov, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

These facts and figures show us that the 2015 refugee crisis is not just a ‘European problem’ but indeed a global problem. For the crisis to be effectively handled, nations need to unite in order to produce organised solutions as, if the refugee crisis is left as it is, unorganised and chaotic, refugees will continue to migrate at alarming rates, further exerting pressure on those who are taking in the most. Developed nations need to come to the aid of developing nations, as this is not just a ‘European’ problem but one on a global scale. Otherwise, in the long term, if refugees only migrate to certain countries then it will result in problems of housing, healthcare and education. Solutions need not be just from Europe but in fact global solutions taken from a united stand to make sure that all refugees have what all humans deserve.


This article was originally published in the Annual Printed Edition of Majallatul Jamia

Mirza Usama Bashir Ahmad

Mirza Usama Bashir Ahmad

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