Asylum space shrinks while new report shows refugee crisis at an all time high

In a new report, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), detailed the impact of the recent crisis in South Sudan and Myanmar which has resulted in more than 2 million people fleeing from their countries due to civil wars and political instability.

The apathetic current state of affairs in both the countries is visible from the statistics released by the UN; 650,000 people from South Sudan and 500,000 Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar have fled their countries to seek refuge in neighbouring countries.

Their search for safer pastures has been a difficult one however with the newly implemented restrictive asylum policies by countries like US and some in Europe making it ever more difficult for these people to be relocated. Increased border restrictions were introduced in 2016 on refugee and migrant movements towards and inside Europe after swarms of people crossed the border from terror stricken Middle-Eastern countries. Germany had lead the lobby for putting such restrictions in place, after the German Prime Minister issued a statement completely closing down Germany’s borders for refugees from Syria.

“So far in 2017, more than 2 million people have fled their countries as refugees,” Grandi told the UNHCR Executive Committee.

“They often arrive sick, traumatized and hungry, in remote border locations, in communities affected by poverty and underdevelopment. Many have urgent protection needs – children separated from their families, men, women, girls and boys exposed to sexual and gender-based violence,” he said.

He said “international cooperation has been replaced by fragmented responses, resulting in restrictive immigration and asylum measures, even in countries with histories of exile and migration and proud tradition of welcome.

“Border closures, measures to limit entry, restrictive asylum procedures, indefinite detention in appalling conditions, and offshore processing had regrettably increased,’’ he said, decrying rising xenophobia.

The situation in Myanmar clearly highlights this situation. Buddhist protesters in Myanmar recently threw petrol bombs to try to block an aid shipment to Muslims in Rakhine State, where the United Nations has accused the country’s military of ethnic cleansing

Grandi expressed serious concern that the refugee issue had been increasingly instrumentalised in local and national policies which results in people continuing to move but undertaking more diversified and dangerous journeys, often relying on smugglers because of the lack of accessible legal ways to Europe. He spoke at length about the importance for keeping in mind humanity and for each country to shelter refugees.

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