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Ending conflicts could also end refugee crisis

China Daily | Updated: 2016-09-23 08:39

Ending conflicts could also end refugee crisis

Migrants are rescued during a MOAS operation off the coast of Libya August 18, 2016 in this handout picture courtesy of the Italian Red Cross released on August 19, 2016. Picture taken August 18, 2016. [Photo/Agencies]

On Monday, at the first United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants, UN members pledged, through the New York Declaration, to protect and help refugees, and better respond to the refugee crisis.

On Wednesday, more than 40 lives were lost in the Mediterranean off Egypt's north coast when a boat carrying hundreds of migrants, reportedly Italy-bound, capsized.

If the current refugee-induced and refugee-related troubles in Europe illustrate the challenges in accommodating those who have already reached European shores, the latest incident is a tragic reminder of the broader refugee crisis.

That makes the commitments of world leaders in New York worthy of imminent action. They are of utmost importance to improving international humanitarian guarantees and services for this vulnerable group. If all the promises made in New York can ultimately be honored, it would help to end the refugee crisis.

But just as a UN official conceded: "We have been able to give the basics to refugees, like blankets, medicine, some food. But what refugees want also is a future, is education, is jobs."

We are talking about the largest refugee crisis since World War II, with 65 million people considered refugees and migrants. Yet the New York Declaration treats only the tail end, not the root causes, of the ongoing crisis.

The massive inflow of refugees adds extra burden to destination countries, which are already struggling financially. The rest of the world has a moral obligation to help such countries to help those unfortunate newcomers.

Indeed, the refugee flow into Europe has dropped significantly over the past year. But that is mainly an outcome of tighter border control. On the other hand, the civil war in Syria, sectarian strifes in Iraq and Afghanistan, and domestic conflicts in some parts of Africa have never stopped creating new refugees, only it is a lot more difficult for them to make it to foreign countries.

The short-lived ceasefire in Syria and the corresponding finger-pointing between the United States and Russia are symbolic of the difficulty in restoring basic security and basic order there, which US President Barack Obama said "has broken down".

Therefore, besides organizing better responses to the refugee crisis, the world needs to place equal, if not more, emphasis on tackling its root causes, and maneuver and broaden consensuses on solving the most devastating refugee-creating conflicts.

Because people will continue fleeing their homelands as the "cycles of conflict and suffering", Obama lamented, perpetuate.

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