Adapting to global human mobility after the refugee and migrant crisis

No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land” was the apt expression of the British-Somali poet Ms Warsan Shire. She made these remarks following the drowning of a Syrian refugee child who was found lying face-down in the sand near the Turkish resort of Bodrum in September 2015. His name was Alan Kurdi – a three-year-old toddler – who became the symbol of Europe’s migrant crisis.

The purpose of this publication is to assess th causes and consequences of forced displacement of people on the move in Europe and in the Arab region and the dire reality faced by migrants – such as Alan Kurdi - in their migratory journeys. The first volume entitled “Migration and human solidarity, a challenge and an opportunity for Europe and the MENA region” explores the adverse impact of cross-border movement resulting from war-related insecurity and climate change. The publication demonstrates that the migrant and refugee crisis is not a “number-crisis” as European countries most hostile to the arrival of people on the move are those that have hosted the smallest numbers. It is in effect a crisis of solidarity and politics.

Upon examination of these issues, it suggests that the closed border policies of advanced societies and the rise of xenophobic populism further aggravate the migrant and refugee crisis. It also highlights that armed conflicts and environmental degradation in the Arab and the Sahel regions interact as complex phenomena, forcing people to flee their home societies. In light of this assessment, it is suggested that there is a need for enlightened European leadership and broad-based support from the media to “depoliticise” the issue of refugees and migrants and to free public opinion from the irrational fear that has gripped it in this regard. The recent decision by the EU to stop maritime deployments for Operation Sophia will further exacerbate the dangers of crossing the Mediterranean Sea for destitute migrants. The report mentions that this sea was already the liquid graveyard of more than 12,000 people since 2014.

The second volume of the publication entitled “Protecting people on the move: IDPs in the context of the refugee and migrant crisis” examines the causes and consequences of internal displacement in the context of the migrant and refugee crisis. It demonstrates that the push and pull factors of forced displacement of IDPs in the Arab region exacerbate migrant and refugee inflows to Europe. Although all people on the move share somewhat the same plight, different remedies are applied to address long-term humanitarian needs of IDPs. This is primarily related to political sensitivities as well as legal and institutional constraints in providing an adequate protection and assistance framework prior to, during and in the aftermath of internal displacement. Upon examination of the predicaments of IDPs in Syria, Iraq and Azerbaijan, the study suggests that prolonged internal displacement results in long-term adverse impact on societies from economic, social and political standpoints.

In conclusion, the publication suggests that in both the cases of migrants and of IDPs, there is an inherent inconsistency in the position of advanced countries that both resent massive arrivals of migrants and express concern about internal displacements with respect to developing countries that they target simultaneously through unilateral sanctions. These measures have the obvious effect of exacerbating the very phenomena that they want to combat.


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