The crisis of illegal migration requires a sensible global response – Charles Akpan

Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images

With the crisis the world is facing today, as a fallout of dislocations and displacements from conflicts around the world, it’s a shock that the problem is still being left to individual countries to handle.

More befuddling is how we let emotions take over good sense. The result has been that the problem is getting more compounded and the victims, the most vulnerable people, get to suffer even more. They get exposed to untold horrors of abuse and rights violations by both incorrigible state and non-state actors like immigration officers, human traffickers and smugglers.

If we recognise that there is any country in the world today that is not playing host to displaced people seeking refuge or asylum from conflict or persecution, it’s only sensible that the response should be a global one with uniform rules and and appropriate sanctions attached to non-observance or violations whether by state or non-state actors, especially those in the criminal sector that have sprung up to service the migration  ‘industry’
Leaving things to individual countries to address has proved unhelpful. Each country responds to the flood of refugees and asylum seekers according to its national security considerations or according to prevailing national sentiments as we have seen in countries like Hungary, Turkey and Belarus. 

We have seen how irresponsible leaders use the victims and vulnerable persons as pawns in their relationships with their neighbors. For instance, President Edorgan threatens the European Union (EU) with opening Turkey’s borders to let migrants get into Germany whenever it has a disagreement with the bloc while Lukashenko of Belarus actually encourages migrants into his country and buses them to the border.

No one has the right to treat others with such impunity and indignity. Yet, there have been no consequences all because of the failure of the international community to act.

For more context, it’s important to note that most of the conflicts that give rise to dislocations and displacements are caused by proxy conflicts the nuclear possessing countries and permanent members of the UN security council fight around the world. They abuse the veto privilege to stop sanctions against countries they side with. 

The UN has overtime been rendered ineffective by this abhorrent abuse of veto power and it has encouraged more conflicts rather than deter or resolve disagreements between states and prevent them from becoming armed conflicts.

If the UN has failed in its primary purpose of averting wars and armed conflicts, the least it can do is provide mechanisms and processes to protect victims and vulnerable people caught in them. 

The organisation has failed in that too. That’s because it was not able to put in place humanitarian services that would have provided safe passage for the victims to be resettled in safe countries that are ready to accept them. The absence of this service is what left the vacuum that gave rise to criminal gangs of human smugglers and traffickers to take advantage of the desperation of people seeking safety by running away from conflicts. The victims and vulnerable persons have become the worse for it by being exploited, abused and even dying a needless death.

We have watched heartbreaking videos of perilous journeys that ended in horrific deaths of whole families.  They were trying to cross into Europe. Had the UN placed its humanitarian agencies in countries in conflicts, they would have provided the much needed services and dealt with the desperation of people turning to criminal groups for help. 

That would have been a win win for all. The UN would have been better at screening would-be refugees and asylum seekers to separate the genuine from the fakes who could be security risks for the receiving countries.

By this alone, human traffickers and smugglers could have been checked and the chances of terrorists making it overseas too could have been reduced. 

Finally, it will be imperative that when all processes are and logistics are in place to guarantee the safety and safe relocation of victims and vulnerable persons, specific aspects of illegal migration like parents deciding to take their children on perilous journeys using human traffickers or smugglers be criminalised. No parent has the right to endanger the lives of children and whoever does so should face severe consequences.

With the provision of this humanitarian service there wouldn’t have been any excuse for anyone to go through criminal gangs. Sama goes for politicians like Lukashenko, Trump and Erdogan among others, who play politics with human beings and lives. 

Just as consequences have been prescribed for crimes against humanity, the same should be introduced to cover disgraceful utterances by politicians.  

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