In the year of 2015, Europe witnessed the biggest refugee crisis since World War 2, with 1.26 million refugees seeking for asylum. War in Syria and Iraq, as well as conflict and instabilities in countries such as Afghanistan and Eritrea have caused this extreme influx of refugees. The overcrowding and undersupplying refugee camps near the borders of these countries have resulted in the mass migration of these refugees to European countries in hope to seek a better standard of asylum. Although Cambodia is not a European country to be linked to the situation, Cambodia recognizes the crisis due to its own refugee crisis during the period of 1969-1993.
During the course of 1979, tens of thousands of Cambodians fled to the Thai border. Barred by the Thai military from entering the country, a great number of them gathered in several makeshift camps along the ill-defined border. Many were starving, had malaria, and were in a very poor state of health. The reaction to this crisis, which involved possibly 250,000 seeking food and safety in Thailand, was remarkable.
After long negotiations and hard bargaining with the Thai Government, the international community, led by the UNHCR, set up a series of camps to accommodate the illegal immigrants, as the Thai Government regarded them inside Thai territory. With a relatively limited number of refugees finding resettlement overseas, it took ten long years for the majority of the refugees remaining in the camps to return to Cambodia. Nevertheless, the Cambodian refugee crisis had a solution, but one that reflected a very different set of circumstances from what is occurring in Europe. Most importantly, the majority of refugees from Cambodia hoped to return to their own country. What seems to mark out the European refugee crisis is the hope of most of the migrants to move permanently to new homes.
Amnesty International, a London-based non-government organization focused on human rights, has addressed the current European refugee crisis, claiming that most rich countries are still treating refugees as somebody else’s problem. Furthermore, claimed that these countries are “hiding behind closed borders and fears of being “flooded””. Consequently, Amnesty has put forward eight solutions that world leaders can use to start tackling this massive humanitarian crisis together. The following solutions are:
1. Opening up safe routes to sanctuary for refugees is one important solution. That means allowing people to reunite with their relatives, and giving refugees visas so they don’t have to spend their life savings and risk drowning to reach safety.
2. Resettling all refugees who need it. Resettlement is a vital solution for the most vulnerable refugees – including torture survivors and people with serious medical problems.
3. Saving lives first. No one should have to die crossing a border, and yet almost 7,000 people drowned in the Mediterranean alone in the two years since the first big shipwreck in October 2013. States can stop this by investing in search and rescue operations and immediately helping people in distress.
4. People fleeing persecution or wars should be allowed to cross borders, with or without travel documents. Pushing people back and putting up massive fences only forces them to take more dangerous routes to safety.
5. All countries should investigate and prosecute trafficking gangs who exploit refugees and migrants, and put people’s safety above all else. Survivors whom Amnesty met in Southeast Asia said traffickers killed people on board boats when their families couldn’t pay ransoms. Others were thrown overboard and left to drown, or died from because there was no food and water.
6. Stop the blame of refugees and migrants for economic and social problems, and instead combat all kinds of xenophobia and racial discrimination. Doing otherwise is deeply unfair, stirs up tensions and fear of foreigners, and sometimes leads to violence – even death.
7. Fully funding refugee aids. Wealthy countries quite simply aren’t keeping their high-profile promises to fund aid for refugees abroad and instead spend billions on border control.
8. Ultimately, the refugee crisis would be resolved by ending the conflicts and persecution that forced people to flee in the first place.
An unprecedented number of people from Middle Eastern and African countries—many of them fleeing war, persecution, and unrelenting poverty—have been crossing borders into and within Europe, crossing the Mediterranean, the Balkans, and the English Channel. This refugee crisis has turned immigration, asylum, border control, and state sovereignty into interconnected problems, making migration not only a political event but also a media spectacle. In so doing, it has brought certain issues to the fore, from refugee quotas and the moral imperatives that ostensibly ground European humanism to the impossibility of European unity, even as it has simultaneously rendered others invisible, including older patterns of migration, border control, and state violence. The delegate of Cambodia is fully aware of the European refugee crisis and understands the obligation of providing asylum to refugees. However, due to Cambodia’s location and lack of refugees arriving to the country, Cambodia can only fund and bring awareness to this humanitarian crisis.