Human Tragedy Amidst Plenty – Breeding the Next Generation of “Freedom Fighter” or “Terrorist”?
As we go into the period of holidays to celebrate Christmas and New Year, how many people live in fear, sadness and hopelessness? I read about Ukraine and the human suffering caused by the coup, the incited civil war supported by “Friends” of the new regime running Ukraine. And I wondered. What all these leaders will be thinking of while they have their grandiose luncheons and dinner parties to celebrate Christmas and New Year? Will they be thinking of the plight of the thousands of refugees and homeless and dead? Will they be thinking of all those who have no fathers, no mothers, no brothers and sisters, no children, no relatives because they were killed because of their greed for power and money?
Ukraine is no different from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Congo, Ethiopia or Myanmar. The cause is the same, strategy is the same and the outcome is the same – once beautiful landscapes destroyed, littered with incendiary and unexploded bombs, and landmines. Armed vehicles used by roaming vigilantes and thugs in uniforms terrorising communities. People who were once proud citizens now classified as refugees or displaced or stateless persons, living in desperation and despair.
The UN Convention of Refugees 1951 and the following Protocol in 1967 has been signed by most of the countries involved in horrific acts of war and proxy wars, directly or covertly, which has led to insurmountable hardship for millions around the world. According to the United Nations refugee agency – UNHCR – by the end of 2013 there were more than 51 million people forcibly displaced in the world, the largest number since the end of World War II. Half of the world's refugees in 2013 were children.
According to UNHCR the major challenges in Eastern Europe for them are “often linked to the priority given by governments to political and social considerations, which can leave national asylum systems either dysfunctional or lagging far behind international standards. Recognition rates generally remain fairly low, and some countries are resorting to complementary forms of protection instead of recognition based on the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. Resettlement continues to be the only durable solution for many people of concern.” UNHCR indicates that, as of January 2014, there were 2,968 refugees, 5,478 Asylum Seekers, and 33,271 Stateless persons with the total population of “concern persons” being 41,717 residing in Ukraine. Those originating from Ukraine – refugees 5,127 and Asylum Seekers 1,634 - a total of 6,812.
If we compare this with the situation in Asia, the figures vastly differ, nonetheless they not any less disheartening from that of Eastern Europe. Africa is a pandora’s box when it comes to number of refugees. Most of the refugees in Thailand, are mainly refugees from Myanmar of mostly Kayin and Kayah origin fled armed conflict and have sought refuge in Thailand for more than three decades in temporary shelters administered by the host country. More recently the Rohingya people. Thailand, a non-signatory country to the UN 1951 Convention, is host to 647,624 persons of concern. 506,197 stateless persons, 136,499 refugees, “including 57,500 unregistered person originating from Myanmar living in the refugee camps and reported as persons in a refugee like situation”.
In the Middle East, estimates vary of the number of Palestinians refugees displaced from within what became the borders of Israel in 1948. In 1949, the United Nations Conciliation Commission put the number at 726,000; then newly-established United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) subsequently put the number at 957,000 in 1950. The Israeli regime has in the past suggested numbers as low as 520,000, while Palestinian researchers have suggested up to 850,000. Estimates put the worldwide Palestinian population at over 8 million today. In January 2010, UNRWA data showed some 4,766,670 refugees registered in its "area of operation" (West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon).
Since before the days of colonialism and neo-colonialism, countless numbers of people have been the victims of wars, incursions and occupation for economic wealth - be it due to “discoveries and appropriation of new lands”, the need for spices, gold, silver, tin, oil and gas, uranium and other minerals or occupation of “strategic military and economic locations”. But what is happening now is cold, calculated and misjudged. Such displacement only causes anguish. It leads to the creation of breeding grounds for angry and despondent people. And some of these people will seek revenge and retribution – thus we create the next generation of what some call terrorists and others freedom fighters.
Eugene F Arokiasamy
CEO, AOC-Resources Group