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No African country can be a sustainable haven for refugees

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Added 9th April 2018 07:47 PM

The impending deportation shows neglect of responsibility to refugees by Israel

No African country can be a sustainable haven for refugees

The impending deportation shows neglect of responsibility to refugees by Israel


By Simon Mone

One of the big news of recent times is related to what Israel intends to do. Israel will soon implement an exercise to deport African asylum-seekers from its territory to some unidentified African countries. This is another of the news that comes to baffle the humanitarian community.

If this proposal to relocate escapees goes ahead, it will add weight in undermining the fact that while some countries are trying their best efforts to accommodate displaced people, some are working ardently to undo the good work of compassionate countries. They find it so easy and are not ashamed to embarrass a promise that already has the blessing of the international community, including of Pope Francis.

The international convention encourages all countries to offer solace to needy people, of which refugees and asylum seekers are included. The impending deportation shows neglect of responsibility to refugees by Israel. More to it is that deportation to a "safe third country" comes with a paltry reward of $3,500 and an air ticket to either refugees' country of origin or an unnamed third country. The choice is for refugees to make.

Those asylum-seekers that decline to pick this ‘low-hanging fruit' would face the consequence - permanent detention in squalid facilities. It is a clever move, meant to kick-start voluntary departures of unwelcome foreigners from their land. It says a lot about the thought that some governments have, so refugees can face trials and tribulations. Refugees now know that they are unwelcome and will have to return home to the same old persecution and all, especially those that are political escapees.

It must not sway the world from looking for solutions, even if some countries want to avoid being part of this solution, by coming up with what they think works for them. For now, let us consider any "third safe country" on the African continent. The most hospitable of them all has got to be Uganda. And ask the simple questions, of basic needs. Do they have the infrastructure capable of continuously receiving new arrivals? We are looking at settlements, health facilities, water and sanitation, education and food at this point in time, prior to even considering if they qualify to host any more refugees? The answer is an emphatic no.

The answer is no because such countries will endlessly have to depend on an arrangement where there should be contributions from the elite countries to keep the humanitarian dreams alive. You look at the citizens in the countryside of any African country and find them struggling to provide essential medicines to its own people, food, housing, education and all. In fact, compared to some communities, it is believed that refugees live far more comfortable lives than some of their hosts.

While refugees wake up to rations of food and non-food items, the local populace cannot afford to have two meals. Expectant mothers deliver at home because they cannot afford transport to go and deliver in health centres. Shelters that refugees live in are more modest than those of host communities.

Therefore, an arrangement to let Africans host this burden is pre-mature. No African country can offer a safe third haven for asylum-seekers. No African country has the capacity to sustain it. The reasons for refugees and asylum seekers to run from their countries, is so that they can get better lives, education and all in countries where they run to. So turning them away to other countries provides more problems than solutions since the same difficult situations exist in third countries. It causes vulnerability and forces third countries to deny their citizens the quality of life that they rightfully crave.

The writer is a civil engineer

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