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The Rohingya Refugee Crisis: Bangladesh Seeks Solutions

Due to high levels of harassment, intimidation and conflict deaths in Myanmar (also called Burma) that is openly carried out by hostile Buddhists and (purportedly) by Burmese government troops, some 400,000 Rohingya muslims have fled in recent days to neighbouring Bangladesh.

The refugees are arriving tired, afraid, hungry and disoriented as they flee their burning villages. Sixty per cent of those fleeing, are women and children.

It’s not that Burma hasn’t any Muslims. On the contrary, 4.3 per cent of the country are Muslim (about 2.6 million in total) while 88 per cent (46 million) are Buddhist and 6 per cent are Christian.

What’s different for the Muslims in Burma is that due to arcane Burmese law, they aren’t allowed to own real estate (land or buildings) because they aren’t recognized as citizens due to the fact they can’t prove their ancestors lived there prior to 1823. The Rohingya are… human beings without a country.

In recent years over 100,000 have fled to nearby countries to work or to ask for refugee status. Most of them didn’t qualify for Burmese citizenship in the first place — and therefore arrived in a totally new country with no birth certificate, passport, other reliable identification, or even a family address. Intolerable, doesn’t begin to describe it.

Which is why hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas have landed across the border in Bangladesh since August 25th. Up to 2.3 million more may arrive in the coming months if all Burmese muslims flee the country. If the present situation is any indication, it looks like all of them will leave Burma.


Why Not Just Go Back?

Burmese Rohingyas have nothing to return to, only burned out villages and increasingly hostile citizens. And once having crossed over into Bangladesh, they can’t cross back into the country in which they were born because they have no legal identification to show to Burmese border guards other than a long-distance telephone calling card (if they’re lucky) and no family address that is recognized by the Burmese authorities.

Myanmar laying landmines on Bangladesh border (so that Rohingyas can’t return) (Al Jazeera)


Following Burma's fleeing Rohingya

Since the late 1970’s: Following Burma’s fleeing Rohingya. Image courtesy of Al Jazeera


Bangladesh: The Promised Land for the Rohingya

For decades, the Rohingya have been leaving Burma for Bangladesh and other southeast Asian nations, seeking employment and a chance at a new life.

In those places, if they can find employment they can eventually apply for citizenship and become an actual citizen, with an actual street address, and be a person with an actual job and a real life. If you’re a factory owner that hires a Rohingya, you know they are highly motivated to succeed and that they will be the least problematic of all your workers.

However, even a successful economy like Bangladesh can’t accept millions of refugees in a matter of weeks. The country is doing relatively well for a developing nation and continues to improve its infrastructure and the lives of its citizens every year.

Bangladesh is ranked surprisingly highly by development agencies, and is often referred to ‘one of the next-11’ countries after the G20 countries.

An interesting note about Bangladesh is that they are the largest contributor in the world to UN peacekeeping missions — providing tough, fully trained troops for many UN operations. (The UN pays the wages of the Bangladesh soldiers under its command and supplies many of the tanks and APC’s that Bangla soldiers use while on UN missions, which is a standard practice for the United Nations)


What Will it Take to Help the Rohingya?

  1. Plenty of international aid money
  2. Acceptance by Bangladesh citizens

In the southern region of Bangladesh, 409,000 Rohingya are being held in camps stretching along the border with Burma. While 60 per cent of the refugees are women and children, Bangladeshis worry about young Rohingya males who may have been exposed to extremist thought and could conceivably at least, act against Bangladesh citizens in the future. So far, nothing like that has been reported.

However, keeping hundreds of thousands of refugees in miserable and makeshift camps in hot and humid weather isn’t going to help anyone’s mood.

Even if the Rohingyas arrived there never having imagined a terrorist thought in their life, a year of living under those conditions won’t help to keep violent acts out of the minds of young men, who, like young men everywhere, are prone to acting on a perceived problem without properly thinking it through.

‘No words’ to describe Bangladesh camps, Red Cross says (abc.au)

Rohingya refugee camp, Bangladesh - August 2017. Image courtesy of Australian Broadcast Corporation

Rohingya refugee camp, Bangladesh – August 2017. Image courtesy of Australian Broadcast Corporation

If Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina can convince UN donors to generously fund the effort, her country has a very good chance of accommodating the sudden flood of refugees; Assisting them to find jobs, homes, and helping to build the strong sort of communities that are an asset to any country — but if it doesn’t happen in this manner, that region of Bangladesh is on the same path as the extremely hurtful (to all sides) Israeli/Palestinian conflict was at its very beginning. Nobody wants that.

Or do they? We’ll see what the response is when the UN General Assembly meets this week in New York.


What Jobs Can the Rohingya Do?

If Bangladesh elects to help the Rohingya fleeing persecution in Burma, the best way forward is to employ them as farm labourers in the southern part of the country. Many of these people have lived in rustic conditions and it will take some time before they will be getting jobs as CEO’s, airline pilots, or automobile designers. But that’s not to say they can’t make a valuable contribution to the Bangladesh economy — they can!

Starting the Rohningyas working in the fields will allow them to acclimatize to the new country and cement their place as valuable workers in Bangla society.

The most important thing for the Bangladeshi authorities to remember after taking care of food, shelter and medicine for the new refugees is to provide a sense of community.

Just dumping these people on a hunk of land and feeding them every day isn’t going to solve anything other than saving their lives, but the eventual result will be a social crisis on the scale of what we’re witnessing in the Philippines today.


What Kind of Housing for Working Rohingya Families?

Refugees that want to work should have access to temporary living quarters. You simply can’t get any sleep in a refugee camp (you know this if you’ve ever visited one!) and therefore, you won’t keep your job very long. Therefore, it’s important to relocate Rohingya workers to suitable accommodations for workers and their families until they can save up enough to purchase their own dwelling.

There are thousands of used portable offices and portable crew quarters in the world available at any time. Not only that, but the UN could purchase thousands of new ATCO-type portable trailers to house Rohingya workers and ship them to southern Bangladesh.

In that way, those Rohingyas that are able and willing to work, will have appropriate accommodation. The benefit of these portable buildings is that they are prewired for electricity, and stoves and heat are provided by natural gas tanks located on the exterior of the unit.

One point to remember about this kind of living quarters is that they can be lifted via crane and placed on top of solid stilts — this is important in Bangladesh as many areas of the country are prone to flooding during the annual monsoon season. Many Bangla homes are placed on stilts to avoid being flooded or carried away in the floodwaters.

Portable ATCO trailers could house Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

Portable ATCO trailers could house Rohingya farm workers in Bangladesh. ATCO Ltd.

It seems Shaikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh sincerely wants to assist the Rohingya refugees and that’s admirable.

However, it’s going to take a few billion dollars just to meet the needs of these desperate people until the end of the year. After that, rather than allowing the miserable conditions of the refugee camps to become the fuel for conflict, the Rohingya must be proactively urged to find local work on the many farms in the region. It’s really the only option in this case.

Getting refugees employed is almost as important as sheltering and feeding them as they stream across the Bangladesh border.


Related Articles:

  • Aung San Suu Kyi invites international help for Rakhine crisis
    (Frontier Myanmar)
  • Bangladesh restricts Rohingya refugees, starts immunization
    (National Post)
  • Rohingya Muslims are being wiped off Myanmar’s map
    (National Post)

EU Immigration: Economic Benefit or Social Policy Disaster?

by John Brian Shannon | August 9, 2016

Recent reports about immigration in the EU suggest a real macroeconomic benefit to welcoming millions of refugees and economic migrants into the country

And that’s true. Even poverty-stricken refugees consume goods and services.

If we look at the German example; One million Middle Eastern refugees have been accepted into Germany since 2010 and all of them eat food, pay rent, pay electricity bills, take the bus, buy clothing, go to movies — and in many other ways add revenue to the economy.

If each of those million refugees spend 10 euros per day (equal to their daily food spending) that’s 10 million euros per day. Totalled, their monthly food spend equals 300 million euros in Germany alone.

If we extrapolate the German example further, we see that almost everything in Germany has a sales tax attached to it, and for those that have become employed, they’re paying income tax on their earnings.

Therefore, Germany is earning nearly 1 billion euros per day from their 1 million refugees

Of course, there are the high costs of accepting refugees and some may remain on social welfare programmes for as long as 2 years. German taxpayers pay for that. But after the 2-year mark, it’s all good.

No wonder Chancellor Merkel looks at immigration with such optimism. From an economic standpoint Merkel is 100% right; It really is the best thing for Germany. A brilliant but domestically unpopular policy by one of the greatest Chancellors in German history.

And let’s also recognize that this latest wave of immigrants is additional to the existing German immigrant pool — the first wave of which began in the 1970’s, and that generation are now a cohort of decent, hardworking, and family-oriented people. A benefit to the German economy almost every day since they arrived.

It’s not all Apple strudel and yodeling in Germany, however

Crime is much higher due to those massive levels of immigration. In Germany, girls can’t even attend a women’s music festival without a high probability of being molested by immigrant men. And the same holds true throughout the EU, especially in Sweden (of all places) and in Greece.

So what’s the point? Gain more in taxes so that women must hide in their homes?

That’s a bad deal for half the population, the female half.

Thus far, the lack of leadership on what is expected of new arrivals to the EU is astonishing and breathtaking all at once.

Refugees and economic immigrants from Day 1 of their arrival in Europe, should’ve been handed water bottles and pamphlets (written in their language) describing the rules of European culture, the rights of the person in EU society, the culture of respect for law and order — and not a gloss-over job but a poignant list of laws and societal norms that must be adhered to while travelling or living in Europe.

And printed in bold letters front and back of the pamphlets:

“It’s not your *right* to emigrate to our countries, it’s a *privilege* therefore consider yourselves guests while in our countries.”

Would you allow a guest to your home to wear muddy boots and to walk all over your expensive carpets and furniture? Obviously not.

Then neither should you allow your guests to molest your girls, rob subway passengers, and engage in rioting and looting.

Nor should we allow immigrants (or anyone) to defile EU culture — culture being the mass of our thoughts, brought into the light.

“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.” — Mahatma Gandhi

It’s a very human thing to help people experiencing hardship and fleeing from countries due to conflict or famine there. The fact that we still do this (although not as well as in prior decades) gives hope for humanity.

But it’s been bungled up til now in the EU and it needs to be fixed. ASAP.

Finally, refugees should be given a temporary landed immigrant card (a photo ID) that allows them to stay in the EU for up to 4 years

After that; ‘It’s time to go back home and rebuild your country, with the skills, money and experiences you’ve acquired during your time in the West.’

European countries should now, even at this late stage, attempt to:

1) Educate refugees/economic migrants about European legal and cultural standards, from Day 1 of their arrival.
2) Continue to provide the normal social benefit for each adult, until they find a job.
3) Continue to provide safe housing until reasonable accommodation can be found.
4) Continue to monitor those people to make sure they are finding services, housing, jobs, and are not being targeted by Middle Eastern ‘mafia’ types within their own community.
5) Provide a free airline ticket at the 4-year mark to allow them to return to their home country. If they don’t want to return to Syria (for example) they could exchange their ticket for another of similar value (to Cairo, for example)
6) By accepting and paying for the living expenses of refugees and economic migrants (where they don’t have their own funds) for four years, and by educating them to Western norms, and by helping them to find safe shelter and jobs, etc. it’s truly a privilege for those people to be in Europe, and they should conduct themselves accordingly.
7) If not, they should be deported as soon as they are convicted of any crime (and obviously, their 4-year pass cancelled)

Every day, we teach others how to treat us

If we teach others that it’s acceptable to walk into our homes wearing their muddy boots and to walk all over the carpets and furniture, we deserve everything that we get from those people.

If we (gently) teach them about the rules of our house and provide the support they need, we are teaching them that we’re their benefactors and that we’re people to be respected.

Thus far, we’ve been teaching the refugees the wrong things, and they’ve responded in kind. (Input = Output)

It’s a failure of vision and it’s a failure of leadership. And the experiment with mass immigration flows from the Middle East will end in the failure of some EU member nations.

We’ve already seen blowback from this mishandled affair via the Swiss voting in a 2014 referendum to leave the EU, and Brexit in 2016, with surely more exits to follow.

It’s a problem that won’t go away until EU leaders address the fundamental problems of mass migration, problems which (in the absence of proper guidance) begin on Day 1 of a refugee’s arrival.

Related Articles:


Bonus Graphic: A Snapshot of the European Migrant Crisis in 2015

EU refugee crisis.

Maximilian Dörrbecker (Chumwa)Own work, using data and information from these web sites: Eurostat dataset migr_asyappctzm (direct download) Eurostat dataset tps00001 (direct download) FRONTEX Migratory Routes Map This base map by alexrk  | CC BY-SA 2.0

Syria: The Roots of Civil War

by John Brian Shannon | October 1, 2015

All war is brutal. Whether civil war, insurgency, guerrilla war, conventional or nuclear, all are brutal. And in war, no one weapon is worse than another. If you die or are injured by being blown to fragments by artillery, mines, barrel bombs or conventional bombs dropped by aircraft — you’re just as dead or injured as by machine-gun fire.

Too many commentators are trying to make negative political points about the Assad regime by citing Syria’s use of ‘barrel bombs’ — to convince us that those are the ultimate in inhuman and horrific weapons. As if getting killed by a ‘barrel bomb’ is somehow much worse than getting killed by a mine or by machine-gun fire.

Characterizing some bombs as ‘worse’ than other bombs, etc. takes our focus away from the underlying reasons for the conflict and how we might solve it.

Demonstrators chant slogans to support ISIS. Image by NBC News (AP File photo from June 16, 2014)

In this June 16, 2014 file photo, demonstrators chant slogans to support the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as they carry al-Qaida flags in front of the provincial government headquarters in Mosul, Iraq. The al-Qaida breakaway group has seized much of northern Syria and huge tracts of neighboring Iraq formally declaring the creation of an Islamic state on Sunday, June 29, 2014 in the territory under its control. (AP Photo, File)

What we should be concentrating on is how many innocent people are getting killed or maimed, how many refugees are being created, and how many months will it take to solve the Syrian conflict

And as is always the case, military people are well supported by their organizations and get paid to engage in warfighting, while civilians are (obviously) vastly unprepared to deal with war.

Consequently, many of them do the intelligent thing and leave the conflict region when they are able. This puts huge strain on neighbouring nations as they struggle to accept millions of refugees. Turkey is on track to surpass 2 million by January, 2016 and other nations in the region have accepted hundreds of thousands.

Syria: The Path to Civil War

By using deductive reasoning, we can safely assume the civil war now raging inside Syria is due to the many anti-coalition fighters who fled the 2003-2011 Iraq War, once they realized they couldn’t beat the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.

Such fighters were then able to live and operate virtually ignored in Syria (and Lebanon) as anti-coalition sentiment was running high in the region in the aftermath of the Shock and Awe invasion due to the Syrian people seeing only the results of, and hearing the accounts of, the Iraq War from fleeing Iraqi civilians.

A similar situation on a smaller scale occurred during the Arab Spring months.

Ergo, both the Iraq War and Arab Spring added to anti-Western sentiments in the region

This created a robust ISIS force practically out of thin air — with tacit support from Syrian citizens and the citizens of other nearby nations.

Reality Check:

  • Was there an ISIS before the Iraq War? No.
  • Was there an ISIS during the Iraq War from 2003-2011? No.
  • Was there an ISIS before the Arab Spring of 2010? No.
  • Was there an ISIS during the Arab Spring? No.

Therefore, the ISIS entity was born in ‘the Arab Street’ which is the name for the collage of meeting places where Arab peoples meet, sometime after the Iraq War of 2003-2011 and after the 2010 Arab Spring.

Religion has nothing to do with it

Just as religion had nothing to do with WWI, WWII, or any recent war, this isn’t a religious war although various sides will always try to employ religion (the Crusaders, Osama Bin Laden) or the occult (Hitler) to serve their own interests.

We should ignore the cant and focus on clear examples of criminal and terrorist behavior. Murkiness isn’t our ally in the fight against terrorism

Trying to charge a person in court for being too ‘religious’ is impossible — as there is no such criminal charge.

However, if a person kills 25 people in a criminal act (whatever their political or religious views) we can deal with it in the courts in a very clear manner, and it becomes a clearer ‘sell’ to citizens in the court of public opinion — who after all are the ones footing the bill for our military operations in Syria.

Focusing so much attention on such things as the types of bombs employed by any side and by overly focusing on the religious aspect, we remove our focus from the criminality of what ISIS or other fighters are actually doing in Syria, Iraq, and in the Kurdish territories.

(Although it must be said that the Kurds have their own terrorists and they too must be careful when pointing fingers at ISIS, as some Kurds have been at the terrorism game for decades)

I’ll grant you that the Syrian response to ISIS and other groups has been heavy-handed

But no more than Shock and Awe was to rid Iraq of Saddam Hussein.

We the West, created the conditions necessary for the creation of ISIS and other similar groups that left Iraq and the Arab Spring nations for Syria and Lebanon upon realizing they couldn’t match coalition firepower.

Now we are picking away at them piecemeal from the air, while the Russians have partnered with President Bashar Al-Assad to preserve the Syrian government with both the Russians and Syrians taking the fight to any group threatening the peace inside Syria until a sustainable cease-fire can be agreed.

If we attempt to exterminate all the ISIS fighters in Syria (with the Russians helping in regions of the country that we can’t access) we will simply drive ISIS fighters to Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Iran, Egypt and into other Arab nations

Which will allow the West to claim that we’ve ‘won’ in Syria — in the same way we claim to have ‘won’ in Iraq.

Does anyone really think, for an instant, that Iraq is better off now than under Saddam Hussein?

It certainly isn’t. If you believe otherwise, I dare you to travel to any Iraqi city and proclaim it loudly in any public square. (And, by the way, it was nice knowing you)

If a massive (Iraq War style invasion) occurred in Syria today, many ISIS fighters would leave Syria, taking their tales to the people of each country in the region thereby gathering evermore pro-ISIS support and congealing centres of power across the MENA region.

Using military power to exterminate ISIS in Iraq and Syria means that we will set up a paradigm of continual ISIS movement and evermore ISIS recruiting in more countries

Therefore, although we can paint an “X” on certain ISIS members or groups, once we begin to ‘win’ against ISIS in Syria, they will just melt away to other nations gathering evermore support in every city they visit. Just as they did during the Iraq War.

That is not the path to victory against ISIS

In the case of highly mobile fighters and an ideology that we ‘enabled’ by attempting to exterminate ISIS in Iraq and Syria, we will simply help to grow the anti-Western sentiment throughout the Middle East.

The only path to solve the ISIS question is to use diplomacy to convince ISIS of the need for an ISIS homeland (a piece of very northwestern Iraq and very northeastern Syria) and that we are willing to help make that happen in exchange for laying down their arms.

ISIS presents a case where the more we fight (an ideology) the more members it will attract. And that is something the world doesn’t need.