CHENNAI, India, 28 June 2018
Recently it has been reported that over the past thirteen months Algeria has abandoned more than 13,000 migrants in the Sahara Desert, including children and pregnant women. Algeria had expelled them from the country without food or water, and forced them to walk, sometimes at gun point, under the blistering sun. Obviously, a number of such migrants must have lost their lives, unable to stand the agony. This act of the Algerian government has sent shock waves around the world.
It is reported that Algeria’s mass expulsion picked up since October 2017, as the European Union applied pressure on North African countries to prevent the migrants from Africa going north to Europe via Mediterranean Sea or the barrier fences with Spain.
Expulsion of migrants from Algeria is not an isolated case. Whether initiated by a government as in Algeria, or due to ethnic conflicts, political unrest, and civil wars, people have been forced to flee from their country and enter another region as illegal migrants.
A few years back, a few West European countries, including Germany, welcomed the migrants from the conflict zones, treating the entry of migrants as a humanitarian cause. When Germany and a few European countries showed the green flag to migrants, thousands more were encouraged and started entering the prosperous West European countries, running away from poverty conditions they faced elsewhere.
Now several countries in European Union are regretting that they allowed so many migrants to enter Europe, disturbing the demography of the region and creating seeds of conflict. With so many migrants it has not been possible to screen them to identify the genuine migrants. As happened in West Europe recently, undesirable elements and even smugglers and terrorists could also enter. These migrants would never go back and would mix with the mainstream population in the course of time.
Europe is already paying the price for the entry of so many migrants. There is already considerable concern in Europe about this impending crisis due to the massive influx of migrants.
There are so many other migrant issues around the world, like the Rohingya crisis when illegal migrants entered Bangladesh from Myanmar in huge numbers. Of course, no one can forget the incident several decades back when thousands of Tibetans had to flee Tibet and enter India when the Chinese army entered Tibet and forcibly occupied the land.
The recent efforts of a US President to curtail the entry of migrant populations into the US is a much-discussed subject.
It is high time that a global policy be evolved to find an approach to tackle this recurring migrant crisis in different countries.
While a section of opinion may view the migrant issue as essentially a humanitarian problem which needs to be tackled with compassion, there is an alternate view that the illegal migrants are causing huge socio-economic issues and could even be a source of conflict, and therefore must be stopped at any cost.
In the past, the United Nations has been successful in paving the way for finding solutions to several issues that affect most or all countries. To tackle the environmental issue, the Montreal Protocol has been successfully implemented by several countries jointly agreeing to implement the protocol. In the same way, the Paris Climate Conference resulted in firm conclusions to avoid global warming. WTO regulations have also been implemented by a process of consensus between various countries.
Such positive examples only give hope that it would be possible for all countries to discuss the migrant issue and evolve a methodology and policy approach to tackle this problem. The United Nations should take the lead, just as it did in the case of the Paris Climate Conference, to find a solution to this vexed migrant crisis repeatedly confronting the world.
No doubt, the United Nations has been helping the refugees and trying to rehabilitate them, but it could do nothing to prevent the migrant issue arising. It is high time that the UN take more proactive measures to ensure that a globally acceptable policy would be worked out to sort out the matter.
About the author
NS Venkataraman is a chemical engineer as well as a social activist in Chennai, India. He is the founder trustee of Nandini Voice for the Deprived, a Chennai-based not-for-profit organisation serving the cause of the deprived and down-trodden, and working for probity in public life.
More articles by NS Venkataraman on Tibet Sun.