Scoring the World on its Treatment of Refugees

Last year, 181 nations gathered in Morocco to collectively sign the Global Refugee Compact. This, which was hailed at the time as a huge step forward in terms of the world’s treatment of displaced people, is to be discussed by representatives of each nation later this week in Switzerland. During this discussion, the 181 will be assessed on how they have each progressed with their pledges.

It is, of course, encouraging that so many of the world’s countries are working together to consistently tackle this issue, but the question must be asked, have they done enough? And how do we score them?

While this year has passed, the global number of refugees has been growing and has now reached a total of 26 million refugees worldwide. In part, this is to do with increased conflict – with the Venezuela crisis, for example, contributing greatly and ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria, Iran and South Sudan steadily adding to the toll.

…the question must be asked, have they done enough? And how do we score them?

Which countries have stepped up?

Uganda has also gone above and beyond to welcome refugees. It has created a unique “Uganda model” which permits refugees the right to work, move freely, and cultivate land. These rights are rarely granted in developed countries, despite the amount of wealth and GNP being vastly larger.  

Ethiopia has been a central figure in making positive steps and enforcing policy to help protect and support asylum seekers and refugees. The country’s new Refugee Proclamation has greatly improved the refugee’s access to education and work.

Columbia has also focussed on enhancing work opportunities and placements for individuals who have fled Venezuela, a demographic it has put particular effort into supporting and resettling.

And which have fallen behind?

Over the past year (and previous few years), the US has been becoming less welcoming, and more hostile towards asylum seekers. The Trump administration has introduced a range of measures to either discourage or block individuals and families from claiming their right to asylum in the USA. These include the zero-tolerance policy, which separated thousands of children from their parents at the US-Mexico border, and laws that have banned asylum seekers from Central America from making a claim if they have passed through Mexico to get there.

The US, which was once a global leader in the field of refugee resettlement, has drastically cut the number of refugees it resettles from 95,000 to just 18,000 this year.

Likewise, the EU’s inability to agree on who shares responsibility for asylum seekers fleeing to Europe has left more than 40,000 refugees stranded on the Greek islands.       

The US, which was once a global leader in the field of refugee resettlement, has drastically cut the number of refugees it resettles from 95,000 to just 18,000 this year.

Looking at these findings is profoundly interesting when we consider that it is the developing countries that far outrank the developed ones.  This is despite significant disparities in wealth; Uganda has an annual per capita income of (U.S) $666, while the USA’s is $33,706. And while Uganda’s average annual GNP sits at $70 billion, the USA’s is $19.61 trillion – around 27,042% more.

This disparity is concerning and is sure to be raised in Geneva later this week. Along with this, it is likely that further pledges will be made to raise the numbers of asylum seekers taken in by different countries – although it is unlikely that the US’ will be increased at all.

Looking at these findings is profoundly interesting when we consider that it is the developing countries that far outrank the developed ones.

One thing remains clear. With millions of displaced people around the world, and the number growing, it is action – and quick action at that – which is needed. Pledges and promises must be enacted, and this needs to be done urgently.  

Image credit: https://www.unhcr.org/what-is-a-refugee.html

Written by
Luna Williams