Sometimes those who have the least give the most. And that seems to be the case when it comes to one of the defining challenges of our time: the unprecedented number of refugees who have been forced to flee their homes.
The latest research from human rights organization Amnesty International has revealed that of 193 countries, 10 of them are hosting over half of the world’s refugees. Some of those 10 countries also happen to be among the poorest, and collectively they account for just 2.5% of global GDP.
“A small number of countries have been left to do far too much just because they are neighbours to a crisis. That situation is inherently unsustainable,” Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s secretary general, warned.
According to Amnesty, wealthy countries such as those of the European Union are shirking their responsibilities and putting in place “dodgy deals” to avoid taking in their fair share of refugees.
“In what have been dubbed ‘Fortress Europe’ policies, the EU has erected fences at land borders, deployed ever-larger numbers of border guards, and struck deals with neighbouring countries to keep people out.”
But while that’s going on, the 10 countries bearing the brunt are at breaking point, the report warns – putting refugees in increasingly vulnerable situations.
In Pakistan – the third biggest receiver of refugees – authorities have sent back more than 10,000 fleeing Afghans. In Kenya, home to one of the world’s largest refugee camps, Dadaab, displaced people are being pressured into returning to Somalia.
A way forward?
Migration has become such a politically contentious issue – emerging as a focal point of Brexit discussions, and shaping much of the debate in the US presidential elections – that it seems difficult to see how things could change. But the Amnesty report offers some solutions.
The most important thing is to put the situation in context, the report points out. Forget all the fearmongering about hordes of refugees descending on countries: the 21 million people who have been forced to flee make up just 0.3% of the planet’s population.
If each country would increase its refugee quota by just a fraction, the crisis would be more than manageable, Amnesty argues.
“If all – or most – countries were to take a fair share of responsibility for hosting refugees then no one country would be overwhelmed and the lives of refugees would be significantly improved.”
It remains to be seen whether the human rights organization’s plea will be heard.