The world is turning its back on refugees

By | December 26, 2019

Lama Mourad and Kelsey P. Norman write:

Last December, the United Nations General Assembly formally endorsed the Global Compact on Refugees, which was supposed to help people driven from their home country to find shelter elsewhere in the world. The ability to flee threats of violence and persecution is recognized as a fundamental human right, and some countries embrace their duty to provide a haven. Other countries, however, largely turn refugees away as an economic drain or security threat. The former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon predicted that the new voluntary compact—signed by 164 nations, the United States not among them—would “allow for better burden-sharing among host countries, while elevating the voices of refugees and civil society groups.”

Twelve months later, though, refugees around the world remain in danger. The compact that should be helping them has failed instead. The well-meaning document sought to recast refugees as an economic benefit to nations that receive them. But by furthering the premise that refugees should be accepted because of their potential for self-sufficiency—rather than out of a commitment to upholding international norms and the rights of refugees—the global compact may actually worsen their plight.

The compact ostensibly seeks to ease the pressure placed on countries hosting refugees and to make refugees more self-reliant. It holds out hope that they can return to their home country if conditions improve. Failing that, the compact also attempts to ease their passage from the countries where they seek immediate asylum and toward third countries that might host them for the long term. Governments are encouraged to offer “labor mobility opportunities for refugees, including through the identification of refugees with skills that are needed in third countries.”

This is a dangerous way to think about people in need. While governments are bound to have pragmatic concerns about how many refugees they can afford to take in, the rights of those whose well-being is in greatest peril are neglected when only the “best and brightest” refugees are selected for resettlement. [Continue reading…]

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