Forced Migration on the Rise?

Author:   Dr. M. Mahalingam

Forced Migration on the Rise?

Dr. M. Mahalingam, Research Fellow, Centre for Policy Analysis, New Delhi.

It is a timely revelation with the release of a  new report  entitled ‘The Global Refugee Crisis: A Conspiracy of Neglect’ (2015) by the Amnesty International according to which 50 million people were displaced from their homes due to civil war, sectarian violence, armed conflicts, grave human rights violations and persecution of hapless minorities in the various parts of globe. The report further highlighted that, in the past two years, the world is facing the worst refugee crisis since World War- II. The spurt of forced migration in the recent years indicates the persisting political impasse especially in African, Central and West Asian regions of the world. Further, the growing forced migration is a great concern for all since the forcible displacement would herald in various implications for the world at large.

Refugee Crisis: A reality check

The report mentions about ten countries located in the various regions of the world that have been the major source for refugee population at present. It is very interesting to know that five countries out of these ten are from Sub-Saharan Africa.  Besides long standing refugee population namely Palestines, Iraqis, Afghans, Kurdish, Somalians, Ethiopians and the Sudanese, the protracted civil war in Syria has doubled up global refugee crisis at present. According to António Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, ‘Syrians are the largest refugee population in the world by excluding Palestinian refugees’.  According to UNHCR estimate, there are currently over four million refugees from Syria. Almost half of its population has been displaced and has fled into the neighboring countries like Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Jordon and Egypt.

Further, the global refugee crisis has been fuelled up by the fleeing population from countries like South Sudan, the Central African Republic (CAR), Nigeria, Burundi in African region and Myanmar in Southeast Asia due to persecutions and conflicts recently. According to the report, there are more than three million refugees in Sub Saharan Africa. It seems that in the year 1991, the world’s largest refugee camp was established in Dadaab of Kenya so as to accommodate the fleeing of population of African region. In the beginning of 2015, UNHCR reported that some 25,000 Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar and Bangladeshi nationals attempted to cross the Bay of Bengal to escape violence and discrimination.

Response of the International community

It is very important to note that 86 percent of refugees are being hosted by the developing countries. For example, Turkey, Lebanon and Pakistan are hosting more than one million refugees.  They have been voicing for the resettlement of refugees elsewhere as they have been over burdened. But, the international community has been a mute spectator to the frequent appeals of these countries.

Under such circumstances, the host countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan brought in strict measures and conditions for the entry of growing Syrian refugees. Being left with few options, they started escaping by boat to North Africa and finally to Southern Europe by crossing Mediterranean Sea. By embarking upon an illicit boat journey, they faced untold miseries because of overcrowding and unsafe measures. The Report estimated that more than 1,000 Syrian refugees’ people died in the space of ten days while attempting to cross the Mediterranean in April 2015.

Initially, the Italian navy was assisting them to reach ashore safely. However, the European Union decided to end the operation later as it was encouraging more refugees to flee through the same ways and means. Some countries have been indifferent to the plight of fleeing refugees.

To cite an example, recently, the countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia of Southeast Asian region pushed back the boats into sea by citing security concerns when the refugees from Myanmar and migrants from Bangladesh tried to enter.  After the international outcry over this attitude, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia accepted them on the condition of resettlement within one year. In addition to this, the report mentions that in the light of funds-crunch, the diverse programmes of UNHCR have been underfunded and facing the risk of rolling back.  In general, the response of the international community has been lukewarm in redressing the humanitarian crisis so far. The commitments to annual refugee resettlement programme by the countries have been dismal.

The report shows that nearly one million refugees need to be resettled. But the annual resettlement commitments are less than a tenth of this number.  Moreover, the report reveals that only around 30 countries are coming forward to refugee resettlement   even though 145 countries have ratified the United Nations Refugee convention. Further, in light of inadequate international support and paucity of funds, the international bodies like UNHCR have been staggering with multiple issues to cope with.

A  Collective Responsibility

As mentioned earlier, some of the developing and poor countries are grappling with the issue of increasing influx of refugees. The report claims that the developed or wealthier countries are not sharing enough burdens though they have legal obligations to do so since they are the signatory to the United Nations refugee convention. Moreover, some of the host countries offer only limited rights to the refugees. Given the state of vulnerability, the host countries should be more accommodative and must guarantee all fundamental rights to the refugees. The present refugee crisis is a global humanitarian crisis which should be addressed by all equitably.

The Amnesty International report calls for a paradigm shift on refugee protection and suggests eight key actions for the international community. It should not be left alone with the developing countries which lack the economic resources and infrastructure. The  Amnesty International report calls for a paradigm shift in refugee protection and suggests eight key actions for the international community. The wealthier countries of the West and in Asia-Pacific should step in to share responsibility without considering any costs and benefits as the host countries are on the brink of a severe crisis. Let us resolve the present   looming  refugee crisis collectively.


Amnesty International Report (2015), The Global Refugee Crisis: A Conspiracy of Neglect, available at accessed on 29th June 2015.



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