The Nowhere Men…
The COVID-19 Pandemic has increased the number of hapless population across the globe these days… These people have become refugees, as they are forcibly separated from their natural habitat… The UN observes ‘World Refugee Day’ on June 20 every year to raise awareness of the situation of refugees throughout the world. Since 2001, international organisations – such as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN Refugee Agency – have been issuing guidelines every year for the betterment of the refugees. These organisations are trying to assist some refugees to return to their homes, too. So far, quite a number of refugees have managed to change their legal status, with the help of the UN. Each year, the UN Refugee Agency issues a slogan to highlight the significance of the day. This year is not an exception to this. After considering the COVID-19 situation, this year’s slogan was: “Every action counts!” In other words, a small positive step of man in this regard can ensure Equal Rights in terms of moral position. But, how are these uprooted people? Yet, it is being seen that there hardly are studies on the situation these uprooted people, apart from highlighting one or two incidents by the media…
The very existence of marginalised people is facing a huge crisis across the globe during COVID-19 Pandemic. Asylum seekers, refugees, stateless people, and refugees living in camps are in dire straits at this critical period of time. They have somehow survived in most of the cases. These people are heavily dependent on the Governments and Human Rights Organisations for shelters, food and health, where they live. As per a report prepared by the UNHCR, 1% of the global population is homeless, while about 79.5 million people are registered or unregistered refugees! Among the homeless, who have been forcibly evicted, 26 million people are declared refugees, while 45.6 million are forced to live without civic amenities on their own soils, and 4.2 million are asylum seekers. Furthermore, 40% of the total refugees are under 18 and more than 73% of households belong to the Below Poverty Line (BPL)…
The Civil War in Syria has triggered an inhumane condition that has forced at least 12 million people to take refuge in neighbouring countries, and also in Europe. Due to displacement, illness and hunger, nearly 6.2 million Syrian refugees have arrived in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt and Turkey in recent times. Many have accepted temporary military shelters in Greece, Sweden, Austria, Germany, Canada, the US, Ireland, Argentina, Spain, Norway and New Zealand. There are also many refugees in Kenya and Somalia. In most countries, they do not have the Right to Work outside the camps, they live in!
At least 350 Hospitals or Health Centres have been bombed in Syria. In the war-ravaged West Asian country, around 900 doctors or paramedics have been killed or forced to flee. It can readily be seen that there are so many people, afflicted with the Corona-virus, in every refugee camp. The concerned authorities of a Lebanese Camp have confiscated the Refugee Card of a Corona-infected woman so that she could not go anywhere! The lady has to pay the price for trying to stop the spread of the infection in another way. Without the card, it becomes difficult for the woman to receive her daily rations. The doctors have advised people to increase their immunity powers through food and vitamins. However, the minimum supply of food is on the verge of being cut off in refugee camps in West Asia, The condition of the cage-like Shelter Houses just outside the camp is also pathetic… If a person gets infected there; others, too, would have to fall in suit. In Greece, people – living in refugee campers – are more afraid of starvation than infection! In UN-run refugee camps, quarantine centres have been built for 150-200 patients, mostly! Moreover, there are no provisions for Intensive Care Units or Ventilation Units in those centres!
The scenario is the same in South Asia, where the so-called stateless people, asylum seekers, slum dwellers and detainees are staying in refugee camps. There also exist declared or undeclared policies for them, too. However, the combined fates of these marginalised people depend on the State! There are a large number of Rohingya refugees from neighbouring Myanmar in the District of Cox’s Bazar in Chittagong, Bangladesh. In September 2019, their number was 0.914 million, and of them, 60% were children. The Government of Bangladesh has made arrangements for foreign relief funds for these refugees through the Commissioner for Refugee Relief Repatriation, various international organisations, such as UN agencies, and some voluntary organisations. However, at least 400 families live within 1km of the Rohingya camp, and members of the voluntary organisations – involved in the relief works – are afraid to enter the camp after the COVID-19 Pandemic…
In India, people – staying in various Detention Camps – are in deep crisis because of the Pandemic. On March 15, 2020, the All Assam Peace and Liberty Initiative (APLI) – a Human Rights Organisation – appealed the Supreme Court of India to release the prisoners of six Detention Camps in north-eastern Indian Province of Assam. The APLI informed the Apex Court that it had become increasingly difficult to maintain Social Distancing in the camps. Hence, prisoners should be released on condition of health and humanitarian grounds. However, the Government of India countered this argument, saying that the prisoners would leave the country, if they got to receive bail. The Supreme Court ruled in favour of the appeal on humanitarian grounds, and reduced the minimum stay in Detention Camps from three years to two years. So far, just 339 people have been released from the Detention Camps.
It is the duty of the State to stand by the side of refugees, asylum seekers and stateless people during the crisis period. Unfortunately, the Government and the common people have turned anti-refugee! The marginalised people are not only facing inconsistent behaviour, but also experiencing violence. The detainees, who did not come out of the camps, have been blamed for spreading the COVID-19. Even, communication through cellular phones or the Internet services have been restricted in many Detention Camps as per Government Directives. The Government of India has defended the move, arguing that it would prevent people from spreading rumours! Meanwhile, the refugees fear that they will gradually become isolated from the society, as well as from the world!
If the State is not humane, then chances are there that these people may truly disappear, rather totally cease to exist…
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