Dr. Ajamu Nangwana: Canada, What about resettlement of African refugees?

Dr. Ajamu Nangwana

Dr. Ajamu Nangwana

Wednesday November 25 2015

Source: Share News

By Dr. Ajamu Nangwaya

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promise to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by January 1 is a most welcomed, albeit, limited commitment. However, I am politically obligated to raise my objection to the failure of the Trudeau regime to make a similar commitment to resettle Afrikan refugees and asylum-seekers.

At the start of 2015, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) projected that the number of “people of concern” (refugees, asylum-seekers, internally displaced people), returnees (refugees and internally displaced people), stateless people and others of concern in Afrika would come in at 14.9 million individuals. These people are affected by armed conflict, human rights violations and violence.

The Afrikans who are making the desperate bid to enter Europe are a small fraction of the 3.6 million refugees in Afrika. Afrikan refugees who have successfully made the journey to this perceived place of refuge are greeted with a cold and unwelcoming fortress – Europe.

It is understandable that media outlets have given attention to the thousands of refugees who have perished in the Mediterranean. They give coverage to events based on this notion: “if it bleeds, it leads”. However, the almost 15 million people of concern to the UNHCR in Afrika do not provide compelling and riveting storylines that would increase television ratings.

Canada must do the right thing because it is aware of the condition of refugees in Afrika.

Canada loves to congratulate itself for moving 60,000 Vietnamese refugees to Canada. Canada has the capacity to become relevant to the refugee crisis in Afrika. We are dealing with the lack of political will and concern for the humanity of Afrikans. On the question of Canada’s ability to transport and process a large number of refugees in a short period of time, retired general Rick Hillier says that this country has the resources to easily bring in 50,000 Syrian refugees before Christmas.

While Europe and North America are screaming about their inability to accommodate hundreds of thousands of refugees, it is the poorer regions of the world, such as Afrika, that hosted 86 per cent of the refugees in 2014.

Ethiopia has the largest population of refugees in Afrika. According to a fact sheet from the UNHCR, as of September, there were 733,312 refugees in Ethiopia. On October 6, the UNHCR had only raised 35 per cent of its annual budget of US$315 million for its Ethiopian operation. Canada and other wealthier countries are not rushing to financially support the work of the UNHCR in Ethiopia.

The failure of Global North countries to assist the refugees and asylum-seekers in Ethiopia and other countries is a push factor behind the number of Afrikans who are turning up on the doorstep of Europe. Eritrea, South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria, Gambia and Senegal are the top six producers of refugees to Europe.

Interestingly enough, Ethiopia currently provides sanctuary to 289,188 South Sudanese, 250,415 Somalis and 149,823 Eritreans. They are not economic migrants seeking a better life. They are simply people fleeing violence, armed conflict and human rights abuse. Their compatriots who are trying to get into Europe are also motivated by similar concerns.

Ethiopia is not the only Afrikan country that provides a safe haven for refugees. Kenya hosts refugees and asylum-seekers. The UNHCR gave assistance to 584,989 registered refugees and asylum-seekers in this country as of March 1, and 88 per cent of its US$251 million 2015 budget was unfunded. There were 423,510 Somalis and 91,500 South Sudanese in the two aforementioned categories on March 1.

Some Canadians get a warm and proud feeling about their country’s perceived generosity toward refugees. In 2012, Canada resettled 9,600 refugees from their host countries, while the United States provided this durable solution to 66,300 refugees. According to the report, UNHCR Global Trends 2012: Displacement the New 21st Century Challenge, “The United States of America and Canada together admitted nearly nine out of 10 resettled refugees in 2012.”

But that is from a miserly total of 88,600 refugees divided among 22 resettlement countries. In 2012, the UNHCR registered 10.5 million refugees, but by mid-2014 it had risen to 13 million.

Clearly, countries such as Ethiopia and Kenya host more refugees than Canada. In 2012, the UNHCR reported that over a 10-year period Canada had settled just 163,756 refugees. The Canadian Council for Refugees asserted that this UNHCR figure was too high because “many of these refugees would have become Canadian citizens during the 10 years and shouldn’t still count as refugees”. Canada can accommodate a much larger number of refugees.

In order for Canadians of good conscience to achieve a dramatic increase in the number of refugees and asylum-seekers admitted to Canada, they must build a mass movement to force the federal government to act. The members of the working class have no country so their solidarity ought not to be framed by loyalty to national borders and priorities of the ruling class.

This international solidarity movement should fight for an annual intake of at least 180,000 refugees. In 2014, Canada gave permanent residency, from all sources, to 23,286 refugees. Afrika hosts about 28 per cent of the world’s refugees, therefore at least 55,000 refugees would come from this region.

The yearly average of about 250,000 permanent residents allowed into Canada when combined with the additional refugees would amount to just over 1 per cent of the population. This proposed expansion of the number of permanent residents is not excessive.

According to an article in The Globe and Mail:

“From 1903 to 1913, immigration levels were never lower than the equivalent of 2 per cent of the country’s population, including the people interior minister Clifford Sifton called ‘stalwart peasants in sheepskin coats’ – the hardy Eastern Europeans who settled the Prairies. The intake hit 400,000 (more than 5 per cent of population) just before the start of the First World War.”

Canadians should force the federal government to provide adequate financial resources to refugee-hosting countries to assist them in integrating refugees into the local society. Tanzania recently gave citizenship to 162,000 long-term Burundian refugees and another 40,000 individuals are slated for naturalization.

If we organize, we will win the struggle to get more Afrikan refugees into Canada.

– See more at: http://sharenews.com/canada-what-about-the-resettlement-of-afrikan-refugees/#sthash.aBovUNwl.dpuf

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