Posted by: bklunk | June 19, 2007

A Difficult Observance

World Refugee Day is June 20. War and refugees go together like omelets and broken eggs. Refugees are supposed to be protected under international law, but that depends on (a) international institutions having sufficient resources to respond and (b) states being willing to provide asylum for refugees.

BBC NEWS | Special Reports | Refugees’ fate ‘getting harder’

Conditions for asylum-seekers are becoming tougher in many countries because of fears of terrorist attacks, the UN refugee agency has warned.

Speaking on World Refugee Day, UNHCR head Antonio Guterres said some nations had curbed immigration to the point where refugees were being excluded.

He told the BBC that refugees were not terrorists, but the victims of terror.

After a five-year fall, the number of refugees is rising again because of violence in Iraq and Somalia.

The UN estimates that nearly 44m people have left their homes because of violence or persecution.

It says that some are forced abroad, many others are displaced within their own countries.

“The international community is not paying attention and is not giving enough support,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said.

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  1. It is not only the case that refugees are not allowed to enter other countries, but also the foreign workers seeking jobs in various countries are denied visas and permissions. United States has tightened policy that allows foreign workers to seek jobs in United States and the number of people allowed to work in U.S is decreasing each year. From my perspective, everything today is related to economics. Before doing something, goverments are measuring benefits and costs. I guess accepting refugees creates great costs.
    If country acepts political refugee, the question is what is government supposed to do with him of her. If he, or her, gets job, that job would be taken from another, which means one vote less for someone in next presidental elections.
    Also admiting political refugees creates tension between country that is helping refugees and the country where refugees are coming from.
    As we saw from U.S perspective for decision making, many variables have to be included and obviously refugees are on loosing side.

  2. Refugees are victims of war; some might have been tortured. In a world where people are bragging about upholding human rights and the ideals of cooperation the refugee problem reveals that these states are all talk and no walk. In war torn countries countless acts of human rights violations are taking place and instead of creating aid systems and trying to stop these atrocities from taking place the leaders of the world have decided to turn a cold shoulder. They turn them away, leaving the refugees in worse shape than before. Sure I understand that along with refugees come problems, but the countries that have globalized the world holding the emblem of liberalism so blatantly cannot afford to be hypocrites.

  3. It seems really random who gets amnesty and who doesn’t. Maybe its morbid, but Pol Pot’s genocide may have been well timed. I mean, if it happened today, none of the surviving Cambodians would have got amnesty and 1000s more would have died. Gerald Ford happened to be in office and needed to do a good deed. Is it really as random as who ever needs votes and/or resources that decides who lives in safety and who dies/lives in misery?

    As for the response resources, we are spreading ours thin already. Yes, 18 US soldiers died during Operation Restore Hope in Somalia, but compare that to the current war in Iraq and it seems like we are not being efficient. How can we go in and kill off some factions in one country and leave, while in another one we have to hang around for years patrolling and rebuilding? One word: interests. For every day we stay in Iraq, someone is making mad mula. However, if we had a series of small operations that were spearheaded by the UN, (instead of the otherway around), for once, I think that we could concentrate more on saving people and less on blowing other people away.

  4. Perhaps I am overly cynical, but I have to agree with Nate. I think that the status of refugees has a lot to do with the interests of the country granting asylum. And as we have discussed, international institutions like the United Nations get all their resources and power from its member states, and if those member states are not willing or able to provide resources, then they have no way of helping the refugees. I understand that counrries must look out for their citizens and prevent terrorist attacks, but to me, that excuse seems like a weak excuse for not helping. Refugees can create problems for the host country and questions arise- what if the refugees begin to take jobs from the citizens of that country? Refugees are a political liability- what happens once the conflict in their country is over? What if the refugees do not return home? All these difficult questions arise, and from a realist perspective, the idea of taking in refugees does not provide enough incentives, economically or politically for another country to do so.

  5. I think Anna is right on in her assumptions on why countries are not providing asylum. Countries are more worried about what can potentially happen to their citizens instead of what deaths actually can come from not providing help. Even though refugees are not the best thing to happen to a country it does not mean they should be ignored instead. Without the support of states around the globe nothing can be done for these people.

  6. I think Anna is right about the realist perspective- that is simply what the problem with refugees comes down to. It is not worth the political or economic risk to open our borders and let them in. it does not help our security, even though it could save lives.

    The very institutionalized idea of open borders for refugees is a liberal perspective. The idea that we through cooperation amongst nations we could have a place for some 44 million people in the world to have real lives is something a liberal would support. It is why it is so engrained in to the fabric of the UN

    Personally, I would love to see a change in this, but as we can see in events like the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda, just because it is the right thing to do does not mean we will do it.

  7. I agree with Anna and Matt about the realist perspective of the refugee crisis. A realist would say of course a state would not allow refugees or asylum seekers into their countries. Like Anna said, refugees can create a number of problems in the host country without providing any benefits. This could result in a decrease of relative power and relative gains. Because this makes the state weaker, the state will not take in refugees. This same argument can be made for not giving aide to refugees financially. It is not in a state’s interest to do this because the state would be giving away money, but not getting anything back in return.

    Liberals argue that states have a moral duty to help the refugees. However, realists believe that morality is based on the outcomes of actions. If helping refugees, whether by giving them asylum or aide, is against a state’s national self interest and decreases its relative power, then that action was immoral. The only morality that states have to be concerned with in the international arena is whether or not an action helped them achieve their national self interest. If blocking asylum and not financially aiding refugees increases your security, then it is a moral action.
    The above theories concern me because I do believe that states have a responsibility to protect and help refugees. It’s just disheartening to know that states national self interest impedes this.

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