The UN and American Summits on the Refugee Crisis – Did they Bring us any Closer to a Solution?
Refugee law has been heavily on the political agenda this week, both here in the UK and internationally. OTS Solicitors’ consultant, Mr Paul Gulbenkian was specially invited to the International Association of Refugee Law Judges workshop to discuss recommendations to our refugee law provision in the UK. The workshop was entitled, “Problems for EU Asylum and Free Movement Law in the Context of the Current Migration Crisis” and featured talks on the rights of migrant children in the context of Article 8 of the ECHR and Hungary’s draconian response to the refugee crisis.
Earlier this week, the United Nations held a summit in New York on the refugee and migration crisis engulfing the globe. President Barack Obama made an impassioned plea Tuesday for countries to fulfil a moral obligation to alleviate a global refugee crisis "of epic proportions," despite a political backlash in the US against absorbing those fleeing Middle East violence.
Obama singled out the situation in Syria, which has displaced 4.8 million people so far, as particularly "unacceptable."
"We are not as unified as we should be in pushing to make it stop", he said, describing the global refugee crisis as both a humanitarian and security challenge that tests countries' ability to take collective action.
"I called this summit because this crisis is one of the most urgent tests of our time," he said. "Just as failure to act in the past -- for example, by turning away Jews fleeing Nazi Germany -- is a stain on our collective conscience, I believe history will judge us harshly if we do not rise to this moment."
The ‘Outcome Document’ – progress or diplomatic fudge?
At the UN event, world leaders will adopt the New York Declaration, referred to as the ‘Outcome Document’, which enshrines certain principles, such as a commitment to share responsibility for the refugee crisis more equitably between member states and to combat racism and xenophobia.
However, the "Outcome Document" has been labelled by the BBC as “classic UN fudge”.
In his report, Nick Bryant commented;
“To secure the backing of UN member states, it has been written in often vague and generalised language and lacks binding, concrete commitments.
Absent from the document, for example, is a clear commitment to resettle 10% of the world's refugees.”
He also commented that the prohibition on the detention of children was watered down in the report. This is an area of concern to the best Immigration lawyers in the UK, especially given the number of unaccompanied minors currently in Calais, trying desperately every day to reach the UK. Many Western governments are wary of making any strong commitments to the refugee crisis, due to the rise of anti-Immigration, far-right movements in Europe and Donald Trump’s success in America.
The latest refugee figures
The latest figures released from the UN Refugee Agency show that wars and persecution have driven more people from their homes than at any time since UNHCR records began. On average, in 2015, 24 people were forced to flee their homes every minute, six times more than a decade earlier. A total 65.3 million people were displaced at the end of 2015, compared to 59.5 million just 12 months earlier.
The report concludes that there are three main reasons why forced displacement has increased:
- Conflicts are lasting longer. For example, countries such as Somalia, The Democratic Republic of Congo and Afghanistan, have been embroiled in warfare for decades, with no sign of conflicts easing anytime soon.
- Dramatic, smaller conflicts are occurring more frequently. The biggest of these at the moment is in Syria, but conflicts on South Sudan and insurgencies in Central America are also causing people to flee.
- Solutions for re-homing displaced people are much slower in being implemented and this has been a common trend since the end of the Cold War.
The study found that three countries produce half the world’s refugees. Syria at 4.9 million, Afghanistan at 2.7 million and Somalia at 1.1 million together accounted for more than half of the refugees under UNHCR’s mandate worldwide. Colombia at 6.9 million, Syria at 6.6 million and Iraq at 4.4 million had the largest numbers of internally displaced people.
Children make up 51% of the world’s refugees, many of them orphaned and/or travelling alone. These youngsters are extremely vulnerable. Reports are starting to flow from refugee camps in Europe of widespread sexual abuse of minors, adding to their mental and physical distress.
One volunteer serving at the Softex camp in Greece, which holds 1,400 mostly Syrian refugees, alleged that some young girls had been effectively groomed by male gangs. He said an Iraqi family had to be moved to emergency accommodation outside the camp after their daughter was attacked.
The American Summit on the refugee crisis
Frustrated by the infighting within the UN, which it perceives as causing delays on any concrete action on the refugee crisis being taken, United States decided to host its own meeting the day after the UN summit.
The Obama summit had three main aims: First, to secure regular contributions from at least ten new nations, and to get a 30% increase in funding for global humanitarian appeals, from $10bn (£7.6bn) in 2015 to $13bn this year.
Second, to urge countries already admitting refugees to double the global number of resettled refugees. Third, to increase the number of refugees in school worldwide to one million.
The international response to the global refugee crisis has been poor, frustrating many of the best Immigration solicitors both in the UK and in other parts of the world. In 2015, the UN refugee agency projected that 960,000 refugees were in need of resettlement, but that only 81,000 people had been resettled.
In 2015, Japan only admitted 19 refugees, Russia accepted none. Almost 90% of refugees are currently housed in developing nations, who can least afford them.
Britain took in over 1000 Syrian refugees in 2015 and prior to his resignation as Prime Minister, David Cameron pledged to take 20,000 more.
Following the American summit, President Obama stated that 50 countries have pledged to take in a further 360,000 displaced individuals from war-torn countries this year.
Will Britain bow to the pressure and step up its contribution to this global humanitarian crisis? We will have to wait and see.
OTS Solicitors is one of the most respected Immigration law firms in London. By making an appointment with one of our Immigration solicitors, you can be assured of receiving some of the best legal advice available in the UK today. If you require advice on refugee law please contact us today.
If you wish to discuss any of the points raised in this blog, please phone our London office on 0203 959 9123