The objective of this brief is to project the trends of displaced people that will affect Europe. The intention is to create awareness among decision makers that it’s time to mould a longer term Marshall plan that will address the root causes through a coordinated, multi-dimensional program.
Leading experts are clear; the number of forcibly displaced people will rise substantially over the next decennia. Often, Europe is their sole hope as they have little alternative. The projections by leading experts are staggering.
There are several reasons for the increase in the number of displaced people. Often, it’s a combination of all those below:
1. Further destabilisation as a consequence of fanaticism and religious intolerance across a large region affecting 19 countries today north of the equator. Another important factor is the increased competition for dominance between fanatical groups such as IS, Taliban, Al Queda, Boko Haram, Al Shabab, radical Salafists, Mujao and Ansar Al-Shana. This will lead to more attacks against westerners and symbols. New splinter-groups from renegade fanatics are sprawling up continuously in several regions and cross-border alliances are notable so is the exchange of weapons, intelligence and funding. A chilling fact; Boko Haram has displaced 1,2 million people alone over the last three years.
2. Climate. Extreme weather and natural disasters, heatwaves and droughts force far more people from their homes than wars. Others will be compelled to migrate due to more gradual changes associated with climate processes, such as shifting temperature and rainfall patterns that affect water supply and agricultural production. Global warming is to blame. Million of displaced people will not have the opportunity to return because there is no fertile land or sufficient resources. “Natural disasters displace three to 10 times more people than all conflicts and war in the world combined,” said Jan Egeland, head of the Norwegian Refugee Council which runs the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) in Geneva. Climate change disrupts food and water supplies and cause migrations which in turn cause conflict. Many of the countries that struggle to to cope with the impact of climate change are experiencing high population growth rates. The poorest countries and population groups are most vulnerable to climate change impacts. Experts estimate that the number of “climate migrants” will range between 200 million to 1 billion by 2050.
3. Population growth and density in relation to scarce resources. More people means less available land. This was a leading cause of conflict in the Burundi and Rwandan genocide. Disruption of ecosystem-dependent livelihoods cause long-term migration. Climate change is likely to exacerbate this situation as the desertification means that there is less fertile land every year. Desertification is such a serious problem that it has been estimated that 319 million hectares of Africa are vulnerable due to sand movement. But it is just in these areas with scarce resources that we note rapid population growth. Migration will be the only option for many. Global population is projected to be around 9 billion by 2050. International migration is estimated at 3% of the world’s population. That means there will be 275 million migrants in 2050 (disregarding other factors).
4. Health refugees decide to migrate due to disease, famine, and poverty. Most of us recall the disturbing images from the Ethiopian famine twenty years ago. Many of the survivors are still displaced and dependent of aid. Many are still confined to camps. Dense population areas such as camps are breeding grounds for diseases. Restricting population movement is a largely ineffective way of containing disease. Myriad diseases can quickly become deadly epidemics in crowded places where poor sanitary conditions are common, and food and clean water insufficient.
5. Lack of perspective. Those we label “Economic refugees”. They decide to leave their country because of economical necessity and in search of a better opportunity. Recent empirical studies have shown that socio-economic and institutional conditions such as underdevelopment, lack of education and corruption have similar effects on migration. The Arab spring kick-off was the result of the utter frustration of one individual that embodied the impossibility to assert any prospects because of corruption and discrimination. We still impose a western democratic format to African countries. But our formula divides more people than it unites in African countries because dominant (numbers) ethical groups will likely win the election. Unless we change that principle we will nurture a central power base is are often at the heart of injustice and disproportionate redistribution of services and wealth.
Likely scenarios due to the increase of displaced people
1. More refugee camps. Refugees stay longer in camps. Inadequate access to food, water, shelter and basic health have historically led to conflict. Political, ethnic and religious tensions will occur as more and more people are displaced. 2/3 of displaced people are internally displaced people. That means that they reside within the territory of the own country. But without any perspective to return, they will be confined to temporary housing and make-shift camps. UNHCR states that the average stay of refugees in a camp is 11,8 years. EU commission state that the average stay is more likely to be 16 years in Northern Africa. And without any perspective some will be prone to radical ideas. Dadaab, the world largest refugee camp with over 300.000 thousands refugees (some have never been outside the camp for their whole life!) has gradually become a bountiful recruiting site for the fanatical islamist groups such as Al Shabad (launched several deadly attacks recently).
2. The number of refugees such in camps on the EU outskirts will increase drastically. Countries located at the outskirts of Europe will be reluctant to accept more refugees as they have the obligation to register these refugees. Border fences are erected and strong border control is apparent. As a consequence, larger concentrations of refugees at the EU borders is becoming a fact. An increasing number of displaced people would end up in camps in countries across the Mediterranean sea. It is likely that these Northern African countries hosting these refugees will equally take drastic measures. Further influx of refugees will stretch their resources beyond their capacity. We observe that many refugees are getting more and more confined to isolated areas (hence subject to harsh conditions). What if these countries start repatriating massively refugees to their home countries or dropping them off just over the border?
3. The dilemma of repatriation; adding problems to the root causes. EU countries facing economic difficulties will unlikely agree to accepting large number of refugees on their territory. Accepting refugees is one, managing a smooth integration is another challenge. The point of saturation, as determined by the individual EU countries, is already echoed by many EU member states. Public opinion towards refugee is changing fast. Large scale repatriation will be used to deal with many displaced people that cannot legitimately file for asylum. But, repatriation to where? Back to their country they have fled because they have no no guarantee to survival? Where can people go that have lost everything in places where there is no spare land left?
4. The rise of health issues due to infectious diseases. These constant movements make refugee camps the perfect breeding ground for infectious diseases as refugees transport diseases just as easily as their belongings. There is a constant ebb and flow of people on the move. Refugees cross borders and continents. Infectious diseases will likely reach increasingly our European shores.