The whole point of this blog is that the posts are meant to be fully referenced and researched, but the way I am with my life at the moment that ain’t going to happen – so I’m doing what all writers who procrastinate should do (and have I procrastinated this morning? Oh boy have I procrastinated!) So yes, instead of saying I’m just not ready or I haven’t got the time – I’m applying the seat of the pants to the chair and writing!
This blog post is going to start with the current refugee situation. And if I say things that some find incredibly obvious it’s because I’m exploring the issue, ok?
Evidently, the French PM Manuel Valls has said in Davos that the refugee crisis is destabilising Europe and putting our (European) societies in grave danger. Is this so? He’s saying this because, according to this article, in the first three weeks of this year 35,000 people have crossed the EU’s borders.
Now this is typical of the fuzziness and superficiality of so many articles I read. Let’s unpick the numbers and ask a few questions: who are these people; where are they from; where are they going; what will be their reception; and how will they be assimilated? While I won’t be able to answer those questions in one post, my stance is that for me I have to begin analysing the situation somehow, in more depth.
Apparently there are 19.5 million refugees in a world population of 7 billion, and while 53% of these are from Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia increasing danger, insecurity and human rights concerns in other countries in Africa, Myanmar and Iraq are contributing to a considerable rise in asylum seekers and refugees (see January/February edition of the New Internationalist or website).
But they are not all going to Europe, far from it. For example, 95% of Syrian refugees are currently in just five countries:
- Iraq and
Think of little Lebanon: the country’s surface area is 4,036 sq miles. That’s far less than the size of the UK’s East of England region, which is approximately 7,380 square miles. And yet Lebanon has taken in 1.2 million refugees, that’s 209 refugees per 1000 Lebanon inhabitants.
Meanwhile, (and I bet there are many variations on these stats, but they’re the best I could find) according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) around one million migrants and refugees arrived in Europe up to the end of 2015 – four times more than in 2014. Just a few come by land (34,215); most came by sea of which the vast majority arrived in Greece (816,752). Half of those crossing the Mediterranean were from Syria. And what’s more, IOM estimated that a total of 3,692 migrants and refugees lost their lives in the Mediterranean in 2015 – over 400 more than in 2014.
So, Europe as a whole, has nearly, but not quite yet received as many people as tiny Lebanon. That’s Europe measuring 3,930,000 square miles in comparison to Lebanon’s 7,000 or so square miles – interesting.
And this for me, makes the 20,000 Syrians that the UK will be taking over 5 years seem a number that is a trifle puny.
What I have been saying over and over on Facebook, and to anyone else that is interested, that the EU should take a position on this, and that there should be a coordinated and systematic process for refugees. Furthermore, there should be safe passage for refugees – allow them to come by air, please. This is a humanitarian crisis. But there seems only disinformation, displeasure on the part of politicians that people are in need, and a disgraceful lack of care for people.
Now apparently the EU is thinking of asking Greece to ‘push back’ refugees that arrive via Turkey. Can I remind everyone how many that might mean – over 800,000 in 2015, so how? And anyone helping these refugees, including local people; tourists; and the small groups of volunteers who come out to Greece and pull people from the sea could face criminal charges. If that becomes ratified – I cannot, ever, think well of the EU again.
But I feel I’m getting on my high horse, and this blog is not for that, so that’s all for now – yes, it’s a short post but I don’t aim to overwhelm with stats and opinions. I intend simply to ask questions and unpick statements. The next post will explore how many refugees Europe could take.