The Toronto Star
Mar. 30, 2011
By Olivia Ward
As Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi vows to evacuate 6,200 refugees fleeing North African turmoil from the island of Lampedusa, hundreds more are headed for its shores in rickety boats.
Meanwhile, refugee camps on the borders of Tunisia and Egypt house thousands of destitute migrants who fear violence in Libya.
And millions of Iraqis and Afghans are still homeless after years in exile from continuing conflicts.
Although numbers of people seeking refuge in the West from turmoil and repression dropped to about 360,000 in 2010, the Middle Eastern uprisings may bring another spike by the end of this year.
About 15 million people are currently refugees outside their own countries, according to the UN’s refugee agency, and a record 27 million are internally displaced by violence and natural disasters.
The urgent needs of refugees are one of the biggest ethical challenges of our times. But says Canadian writer Andy Lamey, author of a new book, Frontier Justice, many western countries are failing to meet it, including Canada.
And he says there must be new solutions that neither ignore their right to refuge nor the sovereignty of countries that are asked to take them in.
“Most western states are disappointing in this area,” says Lamey, who lives in Australia. “Refugees represent the shadow side of ourselves that we don’t want to think about or look at. Often the public is indifferent about extending protection, and governments are responding to that.”
Insisting on the right to asylum, he says, isn’t the most effective way to help refugees, at a time when countries are growing more resistant to newcomers and the global financial crisis has helped to harden attitudes.
Instead, countries should embrace the right of “non-refoulement,” not necessarily granting asylum, but allowing refugees to be transferred to a country that would accept them.
But, he admits, finding a “liberal state” that accepts refugees is becoming more difficult as countries close ranks and shun the burden of asylum-seekers.
“A race to the bottom is a common occurrence. As one country makes access more difficult, it puts pressure on others. Even if their systems become harsher, they still have a problem if they aren’t as harsh as their neighbours.”
Full Article Here – http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/966090–no-haven-for-many-of-world-s-refugees