Article 1 of the 1951 UN convention identified refugees as those who fled their country “owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, [and] membership of a particular social group or political opinion.” This definition is both broad and open to interpretation by the individual. It is an important document though, and has been the standard for the last 64 years. Three variables are adding to the difficulty of handling refugees.
The first is the fact that many of the current conflicts are long term activities or events. Consider OIF or OEF, conflicts which have been going on long enough that soldiers joining today were approximately five years old when it originated. Consider the refugee who fled in 2002 and has not returned due to continuous conflict. Each year the numbers are likely to increase, and with conflicts continuing, returning home becomes something which continuously gets pushed back.
The second variable is the likelihood of humanitarian aid workers being targeted themselves, reducing the effectiveness of the aid.
The final variable is the confusing nature of mass exoduses from a country. Today’s experience demonstrates that refugees, migrants, those seeking asylum, and individuals seeking reunification with family move together. This confuses the primary reasons for departing from one’s country and fixates on two key concepts: that migrants choose to leave in order to improve their lives or opportunities, while a refugee is forced to leave to save their life.
So now that refugees have fled their country, who has a responsibility to act? According to the 1951 UN Treaty, those countries which signed the agreement have an obligation to act. Those that do not can be encouraged to respond, but are not obligated to do so. This may help explain why Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and Bahrain have taken in a combined total of 0 refugees. The United Arab Emirates has accepted 250,000 Syrian refugees, making them the key exception to the Persian Gulf States.
Countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan have taken a large share of the refugees. Turkey sits at approximately 1.9 million, Lebanon with 1.1 million, and Jordan with 630,000. Western countries have opened their borders as well, although the trip is more perilous and takes significantly longer to reach. Germany is accepting approximately 100,000 asylum seekers from Syria alone, bringing their expectations for the next few years to 500,000 refugees per year. Sweden has accepted more than 64,000, France 6,700, Denmark 11,000, and Hungary nearly 19,000.
Many countries have initially extended their open hands to refugees, only to pull back the reins as they recognized the large number and potential issues it would create. 22 of the 28 EU countries fall within the Schengen System. It is a shared border system allowing the free flow of people. As of September 13, Germany unofficially exited the Schengen system when it reinstated border control between Austria and Germany. All trains were stopped, and border checks were instituted. More than 450,000 refugees have already crossed via this point, and the system is at the point of breaking.
The refugee crisis will neither go away nor diminish. As long as there is open conflict and countries with better conditions that will accept people, the problem will continue. The solution is complex, and requires support from institutions and countries both near and far. The simple answer is that refugees are an expectation of conflict, and as long as we continue to involve ourselves as a nation in those conflicts, we can expect to see more of this.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.