"A man only has the right to look down at another when he helps him to lift himself up." - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Causes of Displacement
The recent Russian invasion of Ukraine is once again highlighting a terrible situation. Millions of Ukrainians, particularly women and children, have been forced to leave their homes and their country in order to flee en masse of bombings and the hardships of conflict. The invasion has created a tremendous problem on top of the suffering of people, destruction, death, and the economic and humanitarian crises that every conflict provokes: the refugee situation.
Some two million people have left Ukraine to date, fleeing to neighboring countries, which, fortunately, taking them in so far. It is estimated that more than five million Ukrainians may end up fleeing their country if the conflict continues, leaving everything behind.
This situation should remind us that, in the world today, there are more than 27 million refugees, asylum seekers, or displaced persons as a result of different wars, conflicts, and catastrophes. It represents a dramatic situation. We must not forget that there are millions of refugees in other countries in conflict such as Syria, Palestine, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar, Somalia, and the Central African Republic. Two-thirds of all of the refugees in the world those first five countries, and about 40% of refugees are children or adolescents.
At the root of the refugee and asylum seeker situation are the causes. The multiple causes that motivate the forced exile of refugees from their country to another are, among others:
war and postwar,
violence by armed groups,
death threats or persecution,
genocides and ethnocides,
exclusions for ethnic and cultural reasons,
the lack of essential rights and freedoms,
environmental crises such as major droughts and floods,
serious economic crises,
political, social, and cultural crises.
The Rights of Refugees
For all these reasons, individuals and families are forced to take refuge in another country, where they aspire to live in peace and dignity once again.
All refugees have the right to do so, and all countries have the duty to welcome them. The Law of Nations, International Law, and the national laws of each country must allow the admission, reception, and protection of all refugees and asylum seekers who need it into their territories. Human beings, wherever they might come from and whoever they are, always have fundamental and inalienable rights.
The laws of all countries in the world must protect refugees and asylum seekers in all their forms, grant them legal rights and ensure them the essential legal recognition and the right of asylum so that they can rebuild their lives. We must ensure that their dignity, equality, and freedom in the countries of arrival are respected, without the risk of being expelled or deported.
Let's not forget that any of us could be a refugee, a displaced person, or an asylum seeker if our life circumstances forced us.
The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 1951 Geneva Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, and its 1967 Added Protocol grant refugees universal rights and protection. In this sense, the most important element is the right of non-refoulment on the part of receiving governments, since returning refugees to their country of origin could endanger their lives. Other rights included include:
the non-penalty or declaration of illegality for having made an irregular entry into the host country,
freedom of movement within the territory of arrival,
being able to have a paid job,
access to decent housing,
access to the public educational system,
health care under the same conditions as the citizens of the host country,
respect for their freedom of worship and cultural expression,
access to legal protection and courts in the host country, and
the possibility of access to obtaining their necessary identity and travel documents.
They deserve all of these rights without discrimination due to the fact that they are not nationals of the host country. The status of the refugee must be universal in order to make effective the necessary reception, protection, and safeguard and the granting of equality of civil rights that the natives of the country have.
Addressing the multiple problems that these humanitarian crises generate is a moral duty and responsibility of the governments and peoples of all countries.
Unfortunately, in practice, this is not the case. Currently, a small group of ten countries hosts approximately 60% of the world's refugees. Turkey is the most obvious example, hosting more than three million refugees, more than any other country. Other countries that receive a large part of the world's refugees are Lebanon and Jordan, due to armed conflicts in adjacent countries (Syria and Palestine, respectively).
The situation of refugees, asylum seekers, and displaced persons due to serious causes is a universal problem that is, unfortunately, worsening in our world. Over time, there are more and more people forced to leave their countries of origin in order to survive and live with the dignity and rights that all human beings have.
Refugee crises are a global problem that is increasing. This crisis will continue to worsen if the underlying issues are not remedied.
First, we have to reduce or eradicate the causes that cause these crises and, second, we also have to help refugees and asylum seekers both in their countries of origin and in the countries that host them.