Who Is Afraid of 300 Or 400 Or 500 Million Miserables?

Darfur Refugees Camp in Chad | Wikipedia Commons

By Baher Kamal | Human Wrongs Watch

There is a nation that does not appear on any map, has no name, no religion, and no borders nor laws. It is ruled by unidentified pundits and nobody recognises it.

Its peoples were not born in the same land; neither do they know each other. But they are all hard workers and they certainly enrich the first world, the second world, the third world,… and the international banking system.

Everybody is scared of them even when they do not have weapons of mass destruction nor oil nor do they have a dictator to bring down. . . for the sake of democracy.

In short, it is a nation made of more than 300 million people — as many as the whole population of the United States of America, and all of them are errant souls in limbo. But They could well be 350 million or even 400 million now, as new armed conflicts emerge and the global financial and economic crisis hit them first.

It is the nation of migrants and refugees.

Thousands of well-paid experts working in air-conditioned offices of huge international institutions took the pain of classifying them by categories: around 250 million migrants subdivided in emigrants and immigrants, and some 50 million between refugees, displaced and asylum seekers.

Poverty and politics forced the first category to leave their homes and families.

Wars and politics obliged the second category to leave their homes and families.

Migrants Are Worth Over 300 Billion Dollars… A Year

But maybe it is not completely true that nobody cares about the migrants — some do. For example, ministers of finance and top managers of the large banks are interested in the money they save and transfer.

According to recent estimates by international financial institutions, migrants transfer to their countries of origin over 300,000,000 dollars a year.

This amount is equivalent to the gains that the liberalisation of world trade would generate: international development assistance, debt relief as well as a portion of the external debts.

These estimates were issued in 2006 referring to a number that had reached 191 million. They were also based on estimated increase of their number to a bare 3 percent, a percentage that has been largely exceeded.

Individual donor countries and migrant recipients have been largely benefiting from them — their contributions go directly to the arches of social security, health care, medical and social assistance, unemployment funds, elderly people assistance, let alone pension funds.

On their side, countries of origin benefit as well from the money that migrants regularly transfer to their homes in foreign currency.

Foreign currency that helps development and personal enrichments at the time it is highly valuable when it comes to paying the bills of weapons purchase from ‘donor’ countries.

Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Displaced…

Forty-two million people were forcibly uprooted by conflict and persecution worldwide in 2008, according to a new report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The figure does not  include the ‘new’ refugees and migrants that swell the number of miserables in the world in the years 2009 and 2010, let alone those in and from Tunisia, Syria, and Yemen… so far.

The international experts divided them in 15.2 million refugees, 823,000 asylum-seekers, and 26 million internally displaced people uprooted within their own countries.

But the UN reminds that although the overall total of uprooted people represents a decrease of about 700,000 over the previous year, new displacements in 2009, not reflected in the report, have offset that decline.

These ‘new displacements’ are taking place mostly in Pakistan, because U.S. President Barack Obama thought it is best to fight better the Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda by beginning to chase what he suspects are Pakistani Taliban and Pakistani Al Qaeda, mainly in the Pakistani north-western tribal areas and more heavily in Swat Valley.

The U.S. and often more specifically its Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) using drone strikes, has been participating actively in the bombing.

The result has been so far over two million ‘new displaced’ in barely one and a half months.

Maybe one day a high-ranking U.S. officer will say that this has been a “collateral” damage, to be aggregated to those caused by the seven-year long military occupation and strikes by the United States and its Western allies in Afghanistan. Maybe!

Who ‘Hosts’ The Refugees and Who ‘Generates’ Them?

The UNHCR says that 80 percent of the world’s refugees are in developing nations, as are the vast majority of internally displaced people.

It reports the major refugee-hosting countries in 2008 included Pakistan, with 1.8 million (evidently without counting the ‘new displaced’); Syria, with 1.1 million (mostly Palestinians and Iraqis); and Iran (mainly Afghans and Iraqis), with 980,000.

And the UN agency adds that thousands of civilians, unable or unwilling to flee, remain in the conflict zone. The area is under indefinite government curfew, which is lifted intermittently and briefly to allow civilians to leave or obtain necessities.

Of the two million people internally displaced in Pakistan, 80 percent are not in camps, but with poor host communities, according to UNHCR.

Freedom And Democracy For Iraq?

Then it comes to Iraq, a country that has been occupied and systematically bombed by the United States of America for more than six long years.

Say the United Nations: Iraq had 2.6 million internally displaced at the end of 2008, with 1.4 million of them displaced in the past three years alone.

The figure is to be added to nearly 2.5 million Iraqi refugees out of their country.

The total amounts to 5.1 million people uprooted by the U.S. and Western allies’ announced desire to establish democracy, stability and peace in this country.

If the number of wounded is added whose final fate is never reported, and those of widows, orphans and elderly with nobody to assist them, the total will easily jump to eight million war victims — one third of Iraqi population, or the equivalent in proportion to 100 million U.S. citizens.

Women And Girls, Half Of All Refugees

Says the UNHCR: Women and girls constitute 47 percent of refugees and asylum seekers, and 50 percent of all internally displaced people and returnees.

Children and the young under the age of 18 add up to 47 percent of all refugees and asylum seekers, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

… And About Five Million Palestinians, Officially

According to the UN, of the global total of uprooted people, 25 million, including 14.4 million internally displaced people and 10.5 million refugees fall under the UNHCR mandate.

The other 4.7 million refugees are Palestinians under the UN Relief and Works Agency.

Mind you, these are the 4.7 million Palestinians that are under the UN. There are many others, whose number has not been estimated by officials, but there may be between two and three million Palestinians that are scattered everywhere in the Diaspora.

The UNHCR’s conclusion could not be clearer: “As global conflicts and the negative effects of global trends like urbanisation and climate change increase, the humanitarian space is shrinking.”

Neither could it be bitterer: “The amounts needed to rescue people are less than what is needed to rescue banks.” Copyright © 2011 Human Wrongs Watch

Also published by IDN-InDepthNews

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