- Why is Africa a host to a major refugee population?
After the World War II decolonization of Africa, a huge refugee problem surfaced in Africa. During 1987 and 1988 alone, there were between 3.5 and 4 million refugees. This article suggests that independence wars and civil wars, especially those in Angola, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Zaire, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau, Uganda, Morocco, and Zimbabwe, accounted for refugee movements in the 60’s and the 70’s. In the 80’s drought, racial separation, and civil war in the Horn of Africa accounted for most of the refugee movement. The modern refugees tend to be young, politically active, and somewhat educated as opposed to the rural to rural family migrant of the 60’s and 70’s. This refugee problem is unique because it is forced to remain an internal problem. Western countries have very low limits on the number of African refugees allowed to resettle.
Repatriation is the currently favored solution, however, prevailing political conditions in the home country and receptiveness to the return of the refugees are among the problems faced by those choosing to be repatriated. Local settlement (legal or illegal) is another solution employed by many refugees. Organized agricultural settlement is dominant, but spontaneous settlement is often seen. Spontaneous settlement is cheap, however refugees are politically and legally vulnerable. Third country resettlement is not prevalent in Africa for political, economic, and psychological reasons. Host governments tend to pick the cream-of-the-crop for resettlement, which causes refugees to think twice before choosing this option. Other solutions include holding camps for refugees and involuntary repatriation, although many become “refugees in orbit” since they are shunted from one European country to another.
Refugees cause resentment over longer term stays, although they contribute much to suffering economies. Refugees add to rural labor, contribute to cultivation of new lands and buy from local markets. Refugees represent increased income for a host country. They do, however, cause many social and cultural confrontations (e.g. use of alcohol, sexual preferences, religious preferences). They are commonly blamed for taking jobs from citizens and depressing wage levels. Future research themes should include studies of rural spontaneous settlements, urban refugees that spontaneously settle, repatriation, the impact of refugees on the local host communities, and studies of economic refugees.
However, with the flow of time and concern for humanitarian support brought about by the United Nations, Africa has now taken an upper hand in the protection and wellbeing of the refugees. As forced displacement emerges as a critical development challenge, Uganda along with other African countries are leading the way with more progressive policies, embracing approaches that enable refugees to become self-reliant while supporting host communities. Now home to nearly 1.3 million refugees, Uganda faces the prospect of a significant increase in the number of refugees crossing into their country due to the ongoing conflict in South Sudan.
As many as five million refugees and 11 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) live in Africa, with Uganda, Cameroon, Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo hosting the largest numbers of forcibly displaced people.
Recommendations and better alternatives.
The ultimate goal of refugee protection is to find durable solutions which will enable refugees to live in safety and rebuild their lives. Following ways and recommendations can be adopted as measures to stop the refugee crisis and manage their movements and stability.
- Establishing a standard asylum procedure:
Refugees aim for places that are more stable and secure. So the best way to ensure refugees don’t hop between various countries is not to build fences, but to ensure that the asylum system in every state operates to the same high standards, gives refugees the same level of benefits and grants the same length of residency. A common policy would also ensure that refugees were distributed proportionally throughout the developed and developing stable countries.
- End the war in Syria and other nations:
Many Syrians say they would never have left home in the first place if it hadn’t been for the war. So peace in Syria would be the surest way of curbing the number of Syrian refugees. However, it shouldn’t be regarded as a panacea. For a start, the situation inside the country is so complex, and involves so many parties, that it is not a realistic short-term possibility. However, the UN continues to stabilize the war like situations in many countries.
- Persuade the Gulf countries to take in more refugees:
Compared to the European and African countries, we find the Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar etc. taking in less refugees, especially from Syria. However they must understand the idea that if Europe and Africa have a moral duty to help refugees, then the Gulf certainly does too.
- Increase development in west Africa
The vast majority of those reaching Europe this year are likely to be migrating because of war or repression, according to UN figures. But a significant minority, between 20% and 30%, are likely fleeing poverty rather than conflict, particularly from West Africa. These people are often disparagingly called “economic migrants”, undermining the legitimacy of their movement. But the fact that these people risk death by dehydration or ambush in the Sahara desert, or kidnap and forced labor in Libya, in the hope of one day reaching Europe by sea suggests that their motivations are not trivial.
The UNHCR attempts to secure one of three durable solutions for refugees around the world – voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement.
Voluntary repatriation involves refugees returning to their country of origin, based on a free and informed decision. Voluntary repatriation is the most desirable solution for the largest number of refugees, however it is only promoted when conditions in a refugees’ country of origin are considered conducive to a safe and dignified return.
Voluntary repatriation has historically benefited the largest number of refugees and remains the preferred solution amongst most refugees. Over the past decade, around nine million refugees have returned home voluntarily, most with the assistance of UNHCR.
In circumstances where the situations which forced refugees to flee are unlikely to be resolved in the foreseeable future, repatriation is not a viable option. In these cases, local integration – which involves the permanent settlement of refugees in the country in which they sought asylum – is the preferred durable solution. The onshore component of Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian Program is an example of local integration. Available figures show that during the past decade, at least 801,000 refugees were granted citizenship by their country of asylum.
For refugees who cannot return home due to fear of persecution and have protection needs which cannot be addressed in their country of first asylum, resettlement may be the only safe and viable solution available. It involves resettling refugees from the country in which they have sought asylum to another country which has agreed to provide them with protection. The offshore component of Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian Program is an example of resettlement.
Resettlement needs currently outnumber available places by ten to one. UNHCR identified 859,305 refugees as being in priority need of resettlement. However, only a tiny minority of refugees are resettled. Of the world’s 15.4 million refugees only about 1% are resettled each year.
- Adhering to the refugee policies by the UN.
- Increase of intake of refugees by the developed nations more than the developing and underdeveloped nations.
- Ending wars and war like conditions in the world to prevent the migration of the people in the first place.
- Popularizing and spreading the importance of refugee intake and preaching of a humanitarian point of view to encourage the intake of refugees by many nations, which in turn would prevent the pressure and refugee crisis faced by the few major refugee hosting countries.
- Providing employment rights to the refugees in their asylum nations to manage a livelihood for themselves.