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Human security and refugee politics

Atique Sheikh

Conflicts and civil wars bring miseries for human lives. There is no bigger pain for a human to become shelter less and lose their loved ones in a crisis. According to UNHCR there are 84 million people around the globe who have been forcibly displaced. 48 million are internally displaced and 26 are refugees. 35 million of the displaced people are children. During last two years one million children were born in refugee camps. Another report indicates that The US post-9/11 wars have displaced at least 37 million people in and from eight countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, the Philippines, Libya, and Syria.

Due to US forces withdrawal from Afghanistan on August 15, 2021, country is facing worst human crisis at this point in time. Global response to the human sufferings in all affected countries particularly in Afghanistan is not only insufficient but highly deplorable. Prolonged war in middle east and Afghanistan has brought havoc to the civil population in war torn areas. Even Pakistani people living along Pak-Afghan border were displaced for a longtime but Pakistan managed to relocate them after completion of operations and building up the areas. Particularly management and relocation of over one million civil population during swat operation in 2009 was a commendable job.

It is ironic that millions of people have been left unattended in Afghanistan. In war against USSR 1.5 million refugees came to Pakistan from Afghanistan in early 80s. The inflow of refugees from Afghanistan has impacted Pakistan in many ways. It was huge burden on economy because these refugees were abandoned by world and they were fully dependent on Pakistan. It also brought about immense changes on social life of Pakistan. Two generations of Afghan refugees have grown up in Pakistan. It has been tough call to manage 1.5 million refugees during last forty years. Pakistan cannot afford another wave of refugees from Afghanistan.

Afghan people are the real victim of four decade long war in their country. Two generations have grown up in fierce fighting, first with USSR and then with US in war against terrorism which stretched over two decades. According to reports, 50000 Afghans refugees are living in limbo on various US bases. Most of those evicted from Afghanistan are youth. US may utilize this work force by inducting them into their trained labour cadre. According to US bureau of statistic presently there are over 90 million people (either old age or school going) which are not included in work force. These Afghan might be useful to US in many ways. But this does not reduce the misery of those who are left behind in Afghanistan particularly when US has frozen nearly $9.5 billion in assets belonging to the Afghan central bank.

International donors in recent weeks have pledged more than $1.1 billion to help Afghanistan but there aid has not been materialized yet. Humanitarian assistance to the civil population in Afghanistan is a real issue which many turn into a refugee problem for central Asian states, Pakistan, Iran and China, thus creating a serious security concern for the whole region.

Is it a refugee politics? Apparently yes, an emerging human crisis is like a volcano which can burst anytime to engulf peace of the region.

Middle East is worst hit region due to external invasion and internal unrest. In 2003 US attacked Iraq which resulted into 6 million refugees and internally displaced people. Another refugee influx came during Syrian war. The ethnic and sectarian transformation of Iraq triggered region-wide sectarianism and galvanized jihadist movements. The influx of people put strain on all regional countries including presence of international organisations in the region for management of displaced people.

Next in line was refugee crisis in Syria. At least 6 million people fled the country and ten million were internally displaced. The collapse of the Libya has also resulted into refugees. The war in Yemen has also produced massive internal displacement which will impact, not only on regional security, but regional political economy and political development into the foreseeable future.

Such a huge volume of displaced population all along the Belt and Road Initiative may not be a supportive factor for a $1trillion project. Politics of refugee crisis is in play since last one decade and Afghanistan situation is no different. Influx of refugees from Afghanistan will threaten the security of Pakistan, central Asian states and Iran. Any security issue in Pakistan is going to be detrimental to security of CPEC, a flagship program of BRI.

More than 1.5 million refugees are facing life trauma in various EU countries. These refugees will affect the social and economic fabric of European countries. They are a burden on the economy of European nations but average age of all those who have migrated is calculated between 18 to 34 . Europe need youth for work because of increasing ratio of older people and costly labour. These dislocated people might be a work force in coming years depending upon the strategy of European countries. The displaced youth from troubles areas reaching Europe are vulnerable for many social reasons.

According a safe assessment by three UN agencies in early 2021, in Syria, at least 50% of the total population is facing hunger crisis including 2.3 million children under the age of five.

In Yemen 11.3 million children need humanitarian assistance including two million children who are out of school and 1.3 million who are internally displaced. Even a very careful assessment would be a catastrophic result due to over 80 million displaced people in the world. Such a large no of homeless people results into dozens of social problem within in those camps, raises uneducated youth, results into rise in crime rate in the host country and also brings along many security challenges to the regional security. UN is unable to solve and administer the refugees around the globe thus it is responsibility of the regional powers in respective regions to manage the refugee issue and displaced persons to avoid any threat to their own countries and people.

Writer has keen interest in International Relations particularly broader security issues. He can be reached at