The world is encapsulated by the migrant or refugee crisis these days. While the western media is fixated on Europe’s internal squabbling spectacle involving thousands of refugees stuck at train stations in Hungary, washing onshore in Kos or Sicily, or piercing through barbed wires in Serbia and Macedonia, the real story of the migrant crisis is completely lost: Instead of making it seem like Europe is now the victim of this massive refugee influx, it should be put to shame when comparing how many refugees Europe has taken in with the millions of refugees living “under the western media radar” for years in Africa, Middle East and South Asia.
The western media somehow forgets that millions of refugees driven from wars in Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan or Somalia have sought asylum in neighboring countries, and only a small fraction are daring enough to make the extra hundred-mile journey under treacherous conditions to Europe. Just one statistics will throw all this European privileged problem into the trash bin: Pakistan, Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iran alone have more than 8 times the number of refugees as compared to the top European refugee-intaking countries of Germany, France, UK, Sweden, Italy, the Netherlands, Serbia (and the rest of Europe is just negligible).
Pakistan has 1.6 million Afghan refugees alone out of over 2.5 million refugees. Turkey now has 1.6 million refugees. Lebanon, which has a population of only 4.2 million, now hosts more than 1.1 million refugees, or 1 refugee for every 4 residents. Jordan, which has a population of 6.3 million, hosted more than 2.5 million refugees in 2013 – more than 1 refugee for every 3 residents at the peak of the Syrian influx. Iran also has more than one million refugees.
In Africa, Kenya has more refugees form Somalia than all of refugees residing in Germany. Algeria, Ethiopia and Chad each hosts double the number of refugees as France or the UK. In Asia, China, Bangladesh and India each hosts as many refugees as France or the UK – the list goes on…
Moreover, this refugee problem is not new, and it has had a profound impact on the security of some of their host countries: For instance, Pakistan has been hosting over a million Afghan refugees for the better part of last decade. Their disputed settlements in Pakistan have contributed to Pakistan’s rising sectarian violence – and this is not even considering the lawless tribal region of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan where many Pakistanis blame Afghan militants of infiltrating the country and promoting terrorist attacks. Similarly, Kenya has hosted a large population of Somali refugees ever since the 90s – and needless to say, many Kenyans can only lament at the Somali influx when thinking about the hundreds of terrorist incidents since civil war broke out in its neighbor. In other parts of Africa, millions of refugees from the conflict in Darfur, the Boko Haram insurgency and the Ivorian/Liberian civil wars of the past decades have settled in often already poverty-stricken countries of Chad, Cameroon, Uganda etc. In Asia, millions of refugee from places like Myanmar or North Korea have constantly streamed into neighboring countries or similarly try to cross the ocean to Australia. Again, that story is often forgotten.
To many in the US or Europe, this refugee crisis is finally becoming something tangible, rather than an abstract concept from the distant wars of Africa or Middle East. But for the citizens of the majority of countries in the Middle East or Africa, dealing with refugees and seeing refugee camps is a normal everyday phenomenon. I have come across numerous Somali refugee camps in Kenya, Liberian/Ivorian refugee camps in Ghana, and Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan. Once you are in those countries seeing how they are able to adapt to this humanitarian/moral challenge, the Europe squabble seems very small and cowardly.
So yes the migrant/refugee issue is now a headache for the EU. But once again, the western media is playing catch-up on this critical international issue that has profoundly affected the geo-politics and national security of many world regions for the last couple of decades. Now the EU political wrangling is finally propelling this problem into the global spotlight…