Three hundred drownings last week and two hundred a week later, off the coast of Lampedusa Island has put the spotlight of the world on refugees. The latest victims, a third being children, are the last wave of more than 30,000 refugees trying to flee from African trouble spots during the past few months and more than 100,000 following the Arab Spring.
Across the world, floods of refugees have the potential to destabilize previously stable societies and even tilt whole regions into crisis. Inherently refugees, being the flotsam and jetsam of nations, elicit sympathy and most of the media attention is focussed on the unfriendly policies of the destination countries.
The focus on human rights concerns to protect and provide care for the refugees, while fit and proper, merely treats the outcome, but ignores the causes of the problem and doesn’t provide a sustainable solution.
Essentially the conditions creating refugees, stem from bad government by nation states, leading to civil suppression, civil war and ultimately to failed states. These conditions lead people to feel excluded, discriminated against or even targeted and attacked, so that they risk all, to seek a better place to live.
Desperation drives Somalis, Sudanese and Eritreans to flee over deserts, risking life and limb to reach the Mediterranean Sea, where they expend their last financial resources to board overloaded boats in the hope of reaching a European shore.
Europe has become an unwilling magnet for these suffering tides of humanity. Europe is paying a high price for its success and good housekeeping, and it is only fair and fitting to interrogate why they should pay, for the failures of other states to protect their citizens.
Appropriately Human rights groups emphasize the entitlements of the hapless transients to ‘refugee status’, and there is a concomitant expectation that the receiving nation, will waive their usual immigration formalities and procedures.
The real issue is that the governments of failed states are not held accountable for their transgressions by the community of nations. Nations are reluctant to intervene or pass judgement on what is considered to be internal affairs of another state.
In too many cases, leaders stay in power too long, become corrupt and abuse their people, with no recrimination or censure. Only when it is too late, after uncontrolled and desperate migrations, do the world powers sometimes intervene.
Africa is replete with failed states and concomitantly with pathetic leaders. It is only fitting that the International Criminal Court (ICC) should try to hold them accountable for the harm they cause their citizens. It is unfortunate, although not unexpected, that African leaders feel the ICC is discriminating against them and of racism. The recent AU extraordinary Summit in Addis Ababa, considered quitting the ICC.
The ANC’s accused the ICC of ‘representing inequality before world justice, where the weak are always wrong.” Post the Summit President Zuma, called on the ICC not to charge ‘sitting’ heads of state.
Such a retrograde step would represent a huge setback for apportioning blame, especially when it is committed by ‘weak’ leaders. Being ‘weak’ should no longer be an excuse for abuses.
Zimbabwe, led for over 30 years by a ruthless dictator, Mugabe provides a superb example. Yet South Africa and other African governments have continued to protect him. While Mugabe has expropriated assets, forcibly evicted white farmers off their lands, attacked citizens and political opponents and allegedly murdered tens of thousands of Matabeles, South Africa has been mum.
South Africa has even defied international sanctions, going beyond keeping the border crossings open, to facilitate essential loans, electricity and aid. Consequently, South Africa has been swamped with up to 3 million Zimbabwean refugees. With the full support South Africa provided to a spiteful, racist, genocidal dictator, Zimbabwe’s economy has been plundered and ruined.
The government of South Africa bears a moral blot against its claim to be a stalwart in the protection of human rights and rightfully carries a responsibility to provide a safe oasis for the refugee crisis that ensued.
It took the world years to acknowledge the crisis in Darfur. Only after years of genocidal policies perpetrated by Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir against the non-Muslim people of the South, after millions had been huddled into refugee camps and untold thousands murdered, was he declared a war criminal by the international Criminal Court, (ICC).
Yet, even after Bashir was sentenced, he still attended to Conferences in Africa, without fear of arrest. By condoning the massacres and abusive government policies of El-Bashir, most representatives of the African Union, (AU), allowed a climate of impunity to become the norm.
The price for poor governance and despotic leaders across North Africa and the Middle East is now being passed on to Europe. Similarly, Australia is now burdened by boatloads of refugees following years of corrupt government in Indonesia. Kenya and the rest of Africa are afflicted by the chaos in the failed state of Somalia, which produced millions of refugees. The toll on Africa, Australia and Europe, is heavy and multifarious.
It puts their immigration policies under scrutiny and makes them seem heartless. For host countries, there is an unmentionable threat to the multi-cultural and tolerant natures of their societies, particularly when the refugees flooding in are inherently anti-Western and reject assimilation.
With the Mediterranean Sea, now dubbed a ‘graveyard’, how the world deals with its refugees is a priority. I humbly submit that an attitude of zero tolerance for incompetent, cruel and corrupt governments and leaders, which produce refugees, is the right place to start. These culprits need to be identified, spurned and then charged at the ICC, by the concerted actions of all nations.
The spotlight needs to move from the receiving countries, to those countries that force their people to the desperation that drives them to feel they have no reason to stay and every reason to move.
Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.