Friday, September 09, 2011

Warehousing or Helping Refugees?

The linked NYT article, "Fixes for Refugees: The Price of Dignity", explores a continual problem with what host countries should do with refugees in their countries. Are refugee camps the way to go, or is there a better route? In order to understand why camps have been the preferred route, it seems that we need to look at the motivation of host countries. To be fair to them, they are often burdened with some of the cost of hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees, and the spill-off effects....but is it really humane to put large numbers of people into desolate areas -- give them makeshift homes-- and keep them there -- sometimes for 20+ years?
Lancaster, Pennsylvania, has actually been impacted by some of these international policies. For example, two VOLAGS (Volunteer Agencies) -- Church World Service (CWS) and Lutheran Refugee Service (LRS) will help to resettle over 500 refugees from Bhutan and Burma (Mynamar) this year alone. UNHCR has finally decided to close the camps housing Bhutanese refugees in Nepal -- some who have lived there all their lives -- over 20 years!

What do you think is the answer?


arabianknight said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
arabianknight said...

I wish I was writing this post with a clear answer to what should be done. Unfortunately, I'm not. I read the NYT article and continued to explore the sequel because, I was not aware that such camps actually existed. I believe that these camps were created with the right intention of providing emergency care, but it seems that most people end up treating these places as homes because they have nothing better to go back to (fear of persecution, country still in turmoil, etc). Although these camps in poor countries can be breeding grounds for diseases and other forms of horrible situations, I feel that they might still be better than what these refugees were exposed to (genocide, war, etc).

I don't believe the solution to such problems is to let these refugees settle into the communities of the country (like the article suggests by their explanation of Iraq), mostly because a country like Kenya will not be able to handle the cultural, religious, and other diversities that come with the refugees from Somalia or any other country. I believe the UN needs to do more at these sites to ensure that these refugees are both fed educated. Food is essential, and being knowledgeable about certain things like cleanliness can go a long way.