Refugees, Refugees

The plight of some of the  world's refugees and migrant workers makes grim reading indeed.

Thousands of migrants in Libya are being detained under "horrific, inhuman conditions", according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein.

Detainees at the centres are often beaten or prodded with electric sticks if they ask for food or medicine. With no functioning toilets in the facilities, the detainees find it difficult to breathe amid the smell of urine and faeces.

Rape and sexual violence are common place.

Nearly 20,000 migrants are now in custody, a big jump from 7,000 in mid-September, 2017. According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the European Union is assisting Libya to intercept migrant boats in the Mediterranean to prevent them from reaching European countries.

In truth not a single month has passed without dreadful disasters triggering desperate migrants to seek refuge in Europe. According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), at least 2,247 people have died or are missing after trying to enter Europe via Spain, Italy or Greece in the first half of 2017. And in 2016, 5,096 deaths were recorded.

The majority—including "economic migrants", victims of 'people smugglers', and so on—were young Africans aged between 17 and 25.

Why are so many young Africans trying to leave the continent of their birth? Why are they risking their lives to flee Africa?

Part of the answer lies in the failure of earlier economic policies of liberalisation and privatisation, typically introduced as part of the structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) that many countries in Africa were subjected to from the 1980s and onwards, the World Bank, the African Development Bank and most Western donors supported the SAPs, despite United Nations' warnings about their adverse social consequences.

After enduring the burning of whole villages, the killings of family members and rape of the women, about 620,000 Rohingya refugees have made their way to Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh since August 25, 2017.

The daily battle for survival continues for thousands as food, health services and other basic facilities are far from adequate.

Sexual violence is among the most traumatic experiences of the refugees.

End September 2017, a boat carrying Rohingya Muslims, fleeing Myan-mar, with about 80 people, including 50 children, overturned in rough waters, just metres from the Bangladesh shore. More than 60 people are presumed dead. Many had travelled for days through thick forests, to board the boat. Those on board were escaping from bloodshed in Myanmar's Rakhine state, and seeking safety in Bangladesh. Myanmar has blocked UN aid access to the region for UN humanitarian agencies, preventing civilians in the conflict zone from receiving food, drinking water and medicine. The head of the UN in Myanmar has been accused of mishandling the issue, by priotirising development in impoverished Rakhine, over pushing for Rohingya rights. Satellite photographs reveal that at least 320 villages in Rahhine state have been partially or completely destroyed in the campaign of arson, carried out by the Myanmarese security forces, after an attack by Rohingya militants, at the end of August 2017. The new images suggest that at least 100 of the villages were burnt after 05 September 2017, the day on which the Myanmarese army and Ms Aung San Suu Kyi the country's leader claimed on television, that violence had ended.

Another horrifying situation is in Yemen. The country is collapsing and its people dying. Yemen has become the world's largest humanitarian crisis, affecting 21 million people, said a spokesman for the UN High Commission for Refugees. William Spindler.

Internal displacement also creates refugees. Fighting in the Central African Republic has led to 600,000 people internally displaced in the country and over 500,000 refugees outside the country. In Darfur, a third of its people are still displaced despite the drop-in violence.

Vol. 50, No.28, Jan 14 - 20, 2017