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Advantages and Disadvantages of Refugee Movements

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Mass population movements were a major feature of the 20th century; armed conflicts have increasingly targeted civilians and led to enforced migration. No area of the world has been spared – from Indonesia to Sierra Leone, Bosnia to Nicaragua – forming groups of people that we now called Refugees.

A Refugee is someone who has fled his or her country because he or she fears persecution based on race, religion, nationality, social group, or political opinion. The definition is sometimes expanded to include people fleeing war or other armed conflict. Asylum seekers are quite different than Refugees and they are usually defined as people who claim to be a refugee. Often, an asylum seeker must undergo a legal procedure in which the host country decides if he or she qualifies for refugee status. International law recognizes the right to seek asylum, but does not oblige states to provide it.

In 1994, millions of Rwandans were subjected to genocidal violence and internal displacement, the world did nothing; however, when more than a million refugees fled into surrounding countries, there was a massive (but not very effective) international response. At a global scale this is usually what always happens as international interference is not always possible as the barrier of national sovereignty stands in the way. In the more economically developed countries or regions, Europe witnessed a mass movement or formation of 40 million refugees after the Second World War. This led to the rapid formation of many organizations that dealt with this issue and most importantly the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees being a main constituent in the charter of the United Nations.

In other less economically developed countries, countries such as Sudan, during the worst turmoil in 1992, an estimated 800,000 Somalis were refugees in neighboring countries, and 2 million were internally displaced. Large numbers gradually returned to their home areas during 1992-98, however the country continued to live in violence and population upheavals. The number of internally displaced people and refugees in or from Sudan are still increasing and later statistics will show the escalating numbers.

Other examples such as those in the industrialised countries of Eastern Europe, the combination of conflict and economic collapse has led to the elderly being prone to food scarcity, people with chronic diseases going untreated, and preventive services such as antenatal care and child immunisation collapsing. Tuberculosis has been inadequately diagnosed and treated resulting in widespread multidrug resistance. The impact of extensive sexual violence documented in the former Yugoslavia, Somalia, Sierra Leone, and Rwanda has been compounded by the rapid spread of HIV and AIDS. Meanwhile, more than three million Palestinians remain stateless in the Middle East, 50 years after the events that forced them to flee their homeland.

(Statistics from: http://www.ifwea.org/isc/iw-isc/circles/trinidad_tobago/report3_trinidad_tobago.html)

An internally displaced person is someone who has been forced from his or her home for refugee-like reasons, but remains within the borders of his or her own country. Because the person is still under the jurisdiction of a government that might not want international agencies to help him or her, an internally displaced person might still be vulnerable to persecution or violence. There are more internally displaced people than refugees, and they are a growing concern than refugees in many organizations

The following statistics shows and identifies countries in which a large number of their civilians are internally displaced due to persecution from their own government or due to armed conflict or civil war in cases such as Sudan, Sierra Leone. Internally Displaced Persons share many characteristics of International Refugees and in most cases live in worse habitats and are not protected under international refugee law because they remain inside their own countries. Often people think that internally displaced people live in a safer environment and with a slightly better quality of life but in fact, many of these persons are attacked and their own government continuously violates their rights as human beings. These statistics are not exact as internally displaced persons are often unreliable and fragmentary but a close estimate is always taken. Sudan stands at number one with four million internally displaced persons followed by Angola, then Columbia, Congo, and then Myanmar, surprisingly Syria remains much higher than Israel which is also higher than Palestine and those in the Gaza Strip and West Bank with 170,00 displaced persons in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, Israel 200,000-250,000 people and Syria much higher at 500,000 persons. Iraq remains much higher at number 9 and has the greatest number in the Middle East

(Figures from: http://www.refugees.org/world/statistics/wrs01_table5.htm)

Refugees also cause problems to both countries that they already leave but are more of an international concern and more specifically countries that share borders with these countries which have large numbers of refugees. In the Netherlands, the numbers of refugees are increasing. Most of these people are hosted in large asylum centers throughout the whole country; not only in the large city areas. As in other countries refugees can meet two kinds of reactions from native Dutch people: anti or pro. Especially in small rural communities the reactions towards asylum seekers and the asylum centers are often aggressive in the beginning. There are several reasons why this happens, yet most people believe that it’s due to racism. It is no always solely racism that can explain these violent reactions (sometimes called Kollumnization). Another reason is that by calling the native inhabitants racists, policy makers and media do not have to take worries of locals serious anymore. They should because their worries express the people’s concerns of their daily environment.

In most cases refugees are a global concern and a concern to both losing and receiving countries. It is usually the country which is receiving vast numbers of refugees that face the greater problems with giving asylum to large numbers of refugees. These countries already have a great population size which overcomes its resources leaving the country in an increasing overpopulation status. There is usually a strain on the country’s resources, especially in the Less Economically Developed Countries, increased unemployment, need to provide housing, food, medical care, education, services which such countries can ill afford. It may also increase racial tension, violence and discrimination. Receiving countries also have to provide safety for refugees from their own government’s persecution and have to try to keep the media away from some people in many cases due to the relations between both countries and the pressure produced by governments on their neighbouring countries throughout the media or in other forms such as financial aid or economic relations.

These refugees also form an international pressure through organizations such as the United Nations and since nearly 80% of the refugees are refugees within developing nations, the countries face a sort of -have to accept to some extent – policy that forces them to accept many refugees in their country. In Myanmar, Burmese refugees who remain in urban centers are increasingly vulnerable to arrest and, in some cases, forcible return to Burma, where their lives are at risk. Gross human rights abuses by the Burmese government have prompted the outflows and created grave problems for its neighbor. The Thai government has pursued a humanitarian policy through which refugees fleeing conflict are afforded temporary asylum until the conflict in the area from which they fled ends. The refugee population in the camps has expanded from little more than 20,000 in the mid-1980s to nearly 120,000. The number continues to grow. This is a growing concern to the population of Thailand which is already overpopulated and many refugees are illegal immigrants. Other refugees live in special camps which also require care, financial aid and human rights protection and in such areas this is ill afforded.

Refugees live in very bad conditions and are vulnerable to disease and malnutrition and can bring outbreaks to countries that receive them. If refugees become immigrants, they usually live in low cost crowded housing and form slums (shanty towns) the same way immigrants do. They form non-pleasant sceneries in cities and concentrate in areas where there is racial tension, high crime rates, and where very few basic services are provided. These people also have low income jobs and don not contribute to the countries economy and are seen as an economic asset as they grow older and are in need of pensions, shelter and services.

These people also have no ties with their families and barely see them and their culture fades away and they are left in a new environment facing problems with the language, difficulties with fitting in these new cultures and often cannot practice their religion or culture the way they do in their home land. In other cases, governments receiving refugees often face violent attacks from the opposition forces in the original country giving refugees as in Bangkok when Burmese activists held 30 people as hostages and demanded for human rights respect. Burmese refugees sometimes take away jobs from the already growing unemployed people and this usually happens within the LEDC’s.

However the advantages and disadvantages of the losing country are mixed in a sense since the advantages of refugees could be expressed as a disadvantage for the government of the countries giving off refugees. Refugees when find asylum find the opportunity to gain new skills in media training, public speaking and self presentation may be an excellent way of integrating and usually persuade people against their own governments as with refugees that left Iraq after the Gulf War and opposed the dictatorship of Saddam risking their lives and their refuge countries capacity in protecting them. The losing country loses a lot of its overgrown population reducing the pressure on it’s already week economy. These countries usually lose a large number of children and woman and their population structures are altered greatly giving a fragile social life within certain families, families torn apart while seeking refuge through death and or racial persecution.

Villages are bereft of people and many investors usually at a small scale and large scale are evacuated or as in most cases become refugees and lose a great deal of income to their economy. These countries fall under dictatorships in most of the cases and are left with a “raging” civil force opposing them leaving the country under political, economic and social instability discouraging any from of tourism, foreign income, investors, or even reliable financial assistance from international aid. In the governments view, these refugees form a pressure on all services, jobs, and the economy and are considered to release some of the pressure. They also tend to ‘cleanse’ unwanted groups of people out of their country and have a bigger chance in staying in power to rule the country and is in most cases what refugees are all about, these cases are mostly found in Africa and one of the main examples and most common one is Sudan where they “get rid” of unwanted people to decrease their total population, their fertility rates as women are usually what the refugee population consists of.

However the receiving countries may usually but rarely have some of the migration advancements yet this is not always the case as refugees will seek asylum in the closest country next to their due to the lack of transportation, money and so on. Although there are some refugees who make it abroad to developed countries, these receiving countries can sometimes benefit from an extra source of labour. Many bring cultural exchange that brings new skills and ideas. These refugees may also earn more money and have a higher standard of living – stable employment with a salary meeting new people and broadening their cultural understanding. Germany has dominated the list of receiving countries over the last decade, in 1992 receiving 438,000 applicants; the fall to 127,000 in 1994 was mainly a result of the new asylum law which came into operation in the middle of 1993. The 1997 figure of 104,300 represented the smallest number since 1989. (Figures from sights indicated above)

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