Alexander Betts

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A Ukrainian child fleeing the country, Volytsia, Ukraine, February 2022. Natalie Thomas / Reuters

Russian forces continue to grind through Ukraine, shelling cities and killing civilians in the thousands. Nearly four million Ukrainians have fled for Poland, Slovakia, and other neighboring countries. The speed and scale of the Ukrainian exodus makes it the biggest and fastest displacement of people in Europe since World War II. And it has upended many assumptions about refugees, including the view that forced displacement is a challenge contained to the “global South”.

Europe now hosts more refugees than any other region in the world. The oft-cited UN figure that 85 percent of the world’s refugees are in low- and middle-income countries no longer holds.…  Seguir leyendo »

Elizabeth Sizar, a new arrival from South Sudan and mother of two, poses for a photo with her youngest son in front of their home in the Kalobeyei settlement. (Samuel Otieno/UNHCR)

Every June 20, on World Refugee Day, the headlines invariably focus on numbers. But numbers are not the issue; only about 0.3 percent of the world’s population are refugees. The real challenge comes from unequal geographical concentration.

Most refugees will never come to the United States or Europe. Around 85 percent end up in low and middle-income countries like Lebanon, Pakistan and Uganda, and just 10 such countries host 60 percent of the world’s refugees. This means refugee protection is primarily a developing world issue, and there is a lack of global responsibility-sharing.

Refugees stay in these safe haven countries for decades.…  Seguir leyendo »

Newly arrived Rohingya refugees wait to enter a refugee camp in Bangladesh, January 2018. Photograph: Manish Swarup/AP

The UN human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, recently announced he would not be seeking a second term in office. “To do so, in the current geopolitical context, might involve bending a knee in supplication... lessening the independence and integrity of my voice,” he explained.

His vivid words implied that human rights advocacy has become untenable and this statement of resignation – from a highly respected and effective voice – is a tragic indictment of the current state of play. Consider, for a start, the Trump administration’s record, including attempts to ban Muslim travel and exclude transgender people from the military, and how it highlights a UN system now deprived of an important historical champion.…  Seguir leyendo »

Let Refugees Fly to Europe

There are no easy solutions to Europe’s refugee crisis. In a world of fragile states and increasing mobility people will continue to come, irrespective of whether they neatly fit the legal definition of a “refugee.” Europe needs a clear strategy on who it wants to protect, and where and how to assess people’s asylum claims.

The European Union’s agreement earlier this week centered on a quota system to relocate 120,000 Syrian, Iraqi and Eritrean refugees across member states — most likely from transit centers in Greece and Italy. The plan has several flaws: It was passed without political consensus, it has no mechanism to ensure that people remain in the countries assigned to take them, and it does not say how those denied asylum will be treated.…  Seguir leyendo »

The crisis in the Mediterranean, which has led to more than 1,700 deaths already this year, has evoked an immediate response from European political leaders. Yet the EU response fundamentally and wilfully misunderstands the underlying causes. It has focused increasingly on tackling smuggling networks, reinforcing border control and deportation. Somehow European politicians have managed to turn a human tragedy into an opportunity to further reinforce migration control policies, rather than engage in meaningful international cooperation to address the real causes of the problem.

The deaths in the Mediterranean have two main causes. First, the abolition in November 2014 of the successful Mare Nostrum search-and-rescue programme, which saved more than 100,000 lives last year, immediately led to a reduction in the number of rescues and an increase in the number of deaths.…  Seguir leyendo »