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Rich countries urged to protect rights of refugees as US plans 'summit for democracy'

Xinhua | Updated: 2021-12-07 09:07
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LONDON -- Ahead of the so-called "summit for democracy" initiated by the United States later this week, the recent tragedy in the English Channel serves as a reminder that rich countries have much to do to safeguard the rights of refugees fleeing wars and conflicts.

For years, refugees and the displaced face immense challenges in their journeys to developed countries, often resulting in deadly accidents, with the latest being an immigrant boat sinking in the English Channel, killing 27 people.

As taking an airplane or ferry have become impossible due to strict border controls, small boat crossings have increased, creating a business model for smugglers. In the British port of Dover, hundreds of migrants have recently been rescued and brought there by the border patrol police and the Royal National Institute of Lifeguards, a charity that saves lives at sea.

"I think these people are obviously extremely desperate and I don't think any of us would take a journey like that lightly or put children or themselves at risk unless they were absolutely desperate," a local resident who declined to be named told Xinhua in Dungeness, a headland on the coast of Kent, England.

"They're probably doing everything they are possibly can be doing. Yeah, it's a very unfortunate situation. It's hard when people of different cultures are trying to get into different borders or boundaries of different countries. It's not an open world," said another anonymous resident in Dover.

After the boat sinking in the Channel, Britain and France have accused each other for inadequacy in addressing the migration problem.

France has rejected the proposal of having France-Britain joint patrols of police officers or militaries over French waters, according to local media reports.

Britain must make itself less economically attractive to migrants, France's Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has reportedly said, referring to the fact that people can work in England without any identification.

However, Britain does not seem keen to receive refugees either. The British government announced in July that it will overhaul its asylum system to make it a criminal offense to knowingly arrive in the country without permission. British Home Secretary Priti Patel said people should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach, and nobody needs to flee France in order to be safe.

Observers have pointed out that illegal immigrants in Europe, often the result of wars and conflicts in the Middle East and Africa after the intervention by the West, can only be solved if they are offered peace and means of development in their home countries.

"If means of development are provided for individuals and countries, there is no justification for any persons to leave his country and endanger his life," Waleed Gaballah, professor of financial and economic jurisdictions at Cairo University, told Xinhua in an interview.

"People travel and risk their lives for economic benefits or escape ethnic problems or political disputes," Gaballah said. "If problems hindering development are eased, the illegal migration flows will be limited."

Some European countries seemed to have realized this while facing mounting illegal migration flows, Gaballah said, noting that when Germany headed the G20, it tried to encourage funding institutions to improve the living conditions and create job opportunities for Africans.

"The African countries try to integrate into the world economy but still the Western conditions for investing in Africa are difficult," Gaballah said, noting that the rich countries should do more to address the economic challenges of these war-torn countries.

"The West only focuses on the political perspective of the refugee issue," he added.

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