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Refugee: wrong politics, lost people

Editor: Zhang Dan 丨CCTV.com

06-24-2015 17:43 BJT

By Cheng Yawen, Special Researcher of International Affair Research Institute, Renmin University of China

June 20 is the 15th annual World Refugee Day. There were 59.5 million refugees in the world at the end of 2014, the highest level since World War II, according to the latest Global Trends report issued by Office of The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Homelessness increased 8.3 million in 2014 alone.

The first thing indicated by the increasing number of refugees is that global population flows are accelerating and their scale is enlarging. From the perspective of global migration history, transnational or transcontinental population flow often appears under the category “refugee,” but movements of peoples are nothing so very new.

Transnational migration was both legal and illegal when the system of sovereign nations was yet incomplete. It was not classified as legal and illegal immigration until the boundaries of modern countries became clearer and administration stricter. “Legal immigration” only accepts a limited number of immigrants under the administration of the sovereign country. As a result, most population flows are illegal and many immigrants are transformed into “refugees” during the process.

The constantly increasing refugees of recent years are related to another fact: that is, the increasing amount of political failure experienced by countries since the 2008 financial crisis in Europe and the US. It is quite persuasive that the Middle East is the main source of the world's refugees. Political failure is quite popular in this region.

Global Trends identified Syria as supplying the most refugees in 2014: 3.9 million Syrian refugees fled to 107 countries in 2014. There are currently up to 11.6 million Syrian refugees. Along with the emergence of ISIS, Iraqi refugees have increased too. Together with nearly 5 million Palestinian refugees, refugees from the Middle East account for about 50 percent of all the refugees in the world.

A natural disaster or poverty is unlikely to create refugees today. Most come about through political chaos and armed conflict. The Middle East has always been the main source of refugees and has become even more so since the political turbulence in North Africa of 2011. Serious wars in Libya, Syria, Iraq and Yemen have dispersed residents of these countries all over the world.

The three-year civil war has been the most serious humanitarian disaster for Syria this century. Many panic-stricken refugees from the Middle East including Syria choose Europe for shelter. Europe is the area where refugees are increasing fastest, according to Global Trends. Some 220,000 refugees illegally immigrated into Europe across the Mediterranean Sea in 2014, three times the 2011 peak.

As Europe confronts massive problems brought about by refugees, complacent politicians in Europe have not realized the seriousness of the situation. They still seem to make a little trouble. Adhering to the principles of democracy and human rights, Europe is adopting the US-oriented democratic reconstruction approach to the Middle East and attempting to promote political changes in some Middle Eastern countries. By sidestepping the financial and civil crisis and pursuing only the practical benefit, Europe may intensify the unstable governance of some Middle East countries and also harm Europe itself.

Some “Freedom Fighters” formerly backed by Europe and the US have transformed into ISIS terrorist killers while the Western world stands helpless in the face of change. Europe and the US have added their own financial crisis to the general chaos in Middle Eastern countries. That chaos is now coming into Europe in the form of a flood of refugees. What Europeans should ask themselves is this: Was it all worth it?

As refugees flood into Europe from the Middle East, Europeans have to assume the humanitarian responsibility to shelter as many as possible.

More importantly Europeans need to review past policies. By pushing along the process of trying to realize better democratic politics in the Middle East, they actually brought general disorder and turbulence to the region and also harmed Europe.

What the Middle East needs is effective governance, no matter what form. While the threat of disorder often exists, even the worst governance is better than none at all. Same for order. To block refugees flooding from the Middle East and relieve immigration pressure, Europe has to stop intervening in the internal affairs of Middle Eastern countries and assist them in recovering order as soon as possible.

What Europe should do is to transform refugees back into citizens that might lead a normal life back in their local countries and prevent them from flowing into Europe.



Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

Panview offers an alternative angle on China and the rest of the world through the analyses and opinions of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.


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