Refuge Transforming a Broken Refugee System by Alexander Betts, Paul Collier

Refuge Transforming a Broken Refugee System by Alexander Betts, Paul Collier is a fairly new book, published last year. I’ve read plenty of books written by Paul Collier. There are links for them at the end of the post, in the author’s description section. I didn’t know the other author, Alexander Betts, and, also, I haven’t read a book about refugees before. As usual, I borrowed this book from the library to read it.

In the first part of the book, the authors talk about what is a crisis. There is a difference between a migrant and a refugee, as they put it: “Migrants are lured by hope; refugees are fleeing fear.” One of the most staggering things is that the top haven country for refugees has been Pakistan for the last four decades. Pakistan is followed by Iran, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. I wouldn’t have guessed, although it’s quite obvious why this happens, these countries are the closest to where the refugees are fleeing from.

Refuge: Transforming a Broken Refugee System by Alexander Betts, Paul Collier

The situation in the late 1940s and early 1950s, when people were fleeing from the communists is very different. I mentioned this in another book review I’ve made, about King Michael of Romania. After he was forced to sign the abdication under duress by the Communist Party, in 1951 he was offered a house, servants, and an annual income in US. He refused and moved to England. At that time many political refugees have fled Romania in search for safe heaven.

The difference is that, now, the number of people fleeing is so much higher. There are over 20 million refugees worldwide. 54% of them are staying in exile for more than 5 years, while being denied access to the right to work or freedom of movement.

At the time when the EU removed the border controls with Schengen in 1999 nobody was aware of what will happen next in Africa and Syria. The idea was to create an “ever closer union”, but without implementing the same legislation regarding refugees in all participant countries. The Dublin Regulation requires that any refugee should claim asylum in the first European country it gets to.

Between 2011 and 2015, 10 million people left Syria, half of its population. Meanwhile, the UNHCR, the agency dealing with refugees had its funds cut down. The authors say that we have the duty to rescue them. I agree. In their place, any of us, if strong enough, would want to flee from an war zone. For example, Germany halved its contribution in 2014. That obviously proved to be a mistake.

Due to their national history and thinking that most refugees arriving in Germany should have already been assessed by the countries they went through, Angela Merkel decided the “open borders policy” in late August 2015. Also Assad looked like he was almost loosing the battle.
Then Putin intervened in the war, changing the balance of power in Syria. Angela Merkel soon realized the initial estimations will not apply and she urged other European countries to take in refugees. In September, Juncker decided on a number too: 160,000 refugees. It didn’t work. Merkel threatened reductions in disbursements of funds to the governments that didn’t comply. As it was against EU rules, she couldn’t actually do it. Sweden tried to open its borders too, only to close them by the end of 2015, while halving the aid budget to support the increase in spending with the refugees.

As a downside of having the open borders in Germany, the most better off refugees came to Europe, because they were the ones that could pay the smugglers. The surveys show that 80% of refugees coming to Europe were males and half of them had an University degree. That’s disproportionate considering that 1 in 30 people had higher education in Syria. Also, 25% had secondary education, compared to only 1 in 8 of the overall population. They didn’t have the right to work.

Terrorists attacks and the cover up of what happened in the New Year celebrations in Cologne didn’t do any good to the public opinion of taking in more refugees. Merkel paid 6 billion euros to Turkey so they would deal with the migrants. That was twice as much as the first offer they made. The Kenyan government saw this and threatened to expel its Somali refugees unless they will also receive support, not surprisingly they did.

Having a different approach, in 2015, David Cameron had meetings with the King of Jordan and representatives from World Bank, to share the financial burden and to create jobs for the refugees in havens.
In Central America, in the late 80s and 90s, refugees were given land for agriculture. Some of them opened businesses and, being successful, they started to employ other refugees and people from the local communities. Working, studying, offers refugees exactly what they need: a purpose, improves their skills, a sense of dignity, independence.

Uganda is another wonderful example. There, the refugees got the right to work immediately. Successful entrepreneurs would hire other refugees and up to 40% of the employees are from the host country (in Kampala).

I think it’s a shame politicians didn’t find another way to help the refugees and the host countries. They need a safe heaven and dignity. The most humane approach, in my mind, is to offer them jobs to keep and maybe even improve their skills, education, and freedom. There is so much a blanket can do, while entrapped for years in something similar to a prison. Wealthy countries can support the host countries with funds so everybody can benefit.

As for coming into a third country, the Canadian model makes sense. They have a private sponsorship scheme. Citizens and organizations can sponsor specific migrants, from buying the travel tickets to offering them accommodation, clothes, support in finding a school and jobs. This way the refugees that arrive are more likely to be integrated.

Refuge Transforming a Broken Refugee System by Alexander Betts, Paul Collier

Details about the picture: –
My rating: 5/5 Stars.
Would I recommend it: Yes
Published by: Penguin Random House
Year it was published: 2017
Format: Hardcover
Genre(s): Non-fiction. Politics & Economics
Pages: 266

About the author:
Alexander Betts is Leopold Muller Professor of Forced Migration and International Affairs and a Fellow of Green-Templeton College at the University of Oxford. His research focuses on the international politics of asylum, migration, and humanitarianism.
Other books by Alexander Betts: Mobilising the Diaspora: How Refugees Challenge Authoritarianism – with Will Jones, Cambridge University Press (2016), Refugee Economies: Forced Displacement and Development – with Louise Bloom, Josiah Kaplan, and Naohiko Omata, Oxford University Press (2016), Survival Migration: Failed Governance and the Crisis of Displacement, Cornell University Press (2013).

Sir Paul Collier is a specialist in the political, economic, and developmental problems faced by poor countries, especially Africa. He is a Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford University. Furthermore, he is a Professorial Fellow of St Antony’s College. In 2014, he received a knighthood for services to promoting research and policy change in Africa.
Other books by Collier I’ve read: The Plundered Planet (2010), Exodus (2013), and Wars, Guns, and Votes.
Website & Social Media Links: –

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