First, you should know the difference between a migrant and a refugee. The term refugee is a description for people who were forced to flee their country due to social status or political issues. These people are mostly unable to return their countries owing to certain threats. People who we count as migrants are not forced to leave their country. But this does not mean migrants had high life standards where they came from. They generally leave their countries because they seek better living conditions for their families in the future. So they migrate to countries that provide welfare and comfort, that are able to give them better conditions. Let’s clarify the difference between refugees and migrants with an example: A refugee is a person that left his country due to civil war, famine, or drought threat. A migrant is a person that left his country to have more qualified education opportunities or better economic conditions.
Currently, we are struggling with Covid-19. During this period the whole of the world forgot a significant issue for humanity: the issue of migration and refugees. Even though their descriptions are different, more than 70 million people are displaced in the world. After coronavirus has appeared and WHO announced “pandemic”, this issue has been suddenly ignored by media and unfortunately, the situation was the same for both Turkey and the rest of the world. Just one day before the day that first coronavirus case in Turkey is confirmed (March 11), our main problem was the refugees which were immigrating from Turkey to European countries. We forgot refugees which try to live in camps that in-country borders. Even before the pandemic, their life was challenging. They were struggling with hunger, poverty and threats. Migration was an obligation for them because they were not able to live safely in their country due to civil war, conflict, violence and persecution. Some of them were not able to find food or clean water due to drought and famine. Some of them were emigrating because they could not live in poverty that makes it impossible to have an average person’s living standards. These people are trying to find somewhere which is at least safe. But as the enlightened humanity, we did not give them even a safe place. Today in wealthy countries what we see is that they are not sufficient to save their own people from a disease with their health systems. Governments are not sufficient to protect even their own citizens, how can we help refugees in the Coronavirus outbreak?
Xenophobia developed rapidly throughout this pandemic. We are going to see even more xenophobic statements from politicians after this pandemic. Populist politicians who have anti-immigration policies and do not want their country to help refugees are going to talk about the spread of the virus due to migration. They will not accept refugees to their countries anymore. Under the conditions of 2020, what are they going to do? Last time we saw thousands of refugees on TV, they were at the Turkey-Greece border. They are just the tip of the iceberg. Millions of people have the same status as these people as refugees. The number of people who leave their country is increasing every day. We are going to see new waves of migrants after the pandemic. Root causes of displacement and migration are conflict, violence, persecution, insecure situation in the country, as well as weather-related disasters. In some countries, we encounter all of them. In undermentioned countries migration is unavoidable.
Top Countries with Migration Issues
As you all know, there has been a multi-sided civil war in Syria for years. Due to the civil war, we can not speak of any political stability in that country. Political instability causes many problems like economic crisis and poverty in Syria. Moreover, as a consequence of political instability, there are military forces of several governments and terrorist groups in the country. The conflict in Syria causes native people of the country to perceive threats. Consequently, they emigrate to other countries. Since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, more 6 million people have internally displaced. According to UN reports 11,5 million people to need humanitarian aid in the country. There are more than 3,6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey. Nearly 1 million of them are in Lebanon, 662.000 refugees are in Jordan and 131.000 are in Egypt. Rest of them are spread in different countries like Germany, Greece etc. Unfortunately, Europe does not accept all asylum applicants among migrants. So they try to arrive in Europe by using illegal ways. Most of them were living in Turkey but the Turkish government has let refugees flood into Europe. Currently, they are in Greece-Turkey borders and trying to cross the border illegally.
Every year, neighbouring countries of Syria face new waves of displacement which causes a flood of migrants from Syria to their country. Conflict in Syria never decreases and keeps growing with the refugee crisis.
Afghanistan is the second country in the world after Syria that has the largest refugee population with 2,5 million refugees. Another similarity between Syria and Afghanistan is the deteriorating situation of the countries. “The world was emerging from two devastating global conflicts, the Cold War was setting in and millions had been uprooted from their homes,” said Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees in his statement at the Third Committee of the GA, 74th Session.
Migration problem in Afghanistan has begun to develop in the post-cold war period. In 1979 USSR’s military forces went in Afghanistan and fought against Afghan national resistance movement after the conflict had started in the country. Insecurity problem in-country and threat perceptions caused the migration of thousands of people. The situation in Afghanistan is still very complicated when we consider political problems. In addition to all this, they are struggling with famine at the same time. They cannot access clean water and an elegant sufficiency. A child born in Afghanistan faces armed conflict threat and lack of nutrition. As a conclusion, for Afghans, migration is the only way to live safely.
The third biggest refugee problem is in South Sudan. We face another civil war issue in Sudan. After the war, Sudan divided into two countries, Sudan and South Sudan. The conflict between different political powers caused the death of thousands people and displacement of millions. Owing to violent attacks in South Sudan, 1,9 million people are internally displaced. The ongoing conflict does not only cause insecurity and threat to human life but it also prevents agricultural activities in the country. Moreover, there is an increase in crime rates. Local people suffer from that. But the neighbouring countries are not better than in South Sudan. The countries that they migrate to are Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya. Like the rest of Africa, people in these countries survive under tragic conditions and after migration, local people have started sharing their poor conditions with the refugees. They struggle with famine, drought and mortal diseases in there. Malnutrition causes the death of refugee children. There is a massive humanitarian crisis in the area. Long-standing displacement crisis, as in Afghanistan and Syria, continues to persist in the absence of political solutions in South Sudan.
The reason for the crisis in Venezuela is different from the previous three countries. Even if the main reason is different, the conclusion is the same: thousands of people left the country. Crisis in Venezuela is socioeconomic. The increasing hyperinflation caused by the economic crisis is the biggest problem in the lives of Venezuelans. Venezuela’s inflation rate is %10.398 per year. (IMF’s inflation projection of 2019 for Venezuela was %200.000) Due to inflation, prices double itself every 26 days. As prices rise, people are not able to afford basic hygiene products or food. It is impossible to buy even daily needs with cash. Lack of food, medicine and essential services caused violence and people began stealing, attacking and killing for their needs. The economic crisis created chaos in the country, causing more than 4 million people to leave the country. 4,5 million Venezuelan people live in countries of Latin America (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Mexico, Panama) and the Caribbean. In the past, Venezuela had hosted refugees from the region of Latin America.
Role of the UN in the Issue
UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) is the most efficient body of the UN when we consider actions it has taken for the refugee problem. It was created in 1950, after WW2. Their prior aim was to assist Europeans who lost their homes in the war. Today UNHCR works to support and assist refugees all around the world. They provide humanitarian aid and critical emergency assistance in the form of clean water, sanitation, healthcare, shelter, household goods and food to refugees, migrants and asylum seekers. They also help the transportation of people who return home. UNHCR coordinates with governments for its actions. For example in Venezuela, UNHCR collects data to understand the situation of refugees in Venezuela. While determining the needs of refugees, UNHCR works closely with the Venezuelan government and the governments of other states that host Venezuelan people. They determine people who need protection, health service, cash assistance etc. As well as helping individuals, UNHCR supports and assists governments to find solutions for the refugee problem in their countries. (These solutions are not for solving political crises in a country. They cannot provide political stability. They help governments to give better conditions to refugees.)
You can visit the official website of the UN for news about this issue: https://news.un.org/en/news/topic/migrants-and-refugees In this website you can easily access the newest reports about migrant and refugee issues.