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GCN Weekly Bulletin: A Snapshot of the Refugee Crisis in Africa


GCN Weekly Bulletin: A Snapshot of the Refugee Crisis in Africa

The media’s relentless focus on the European Migration Crisis reveals two things about the way we get our news. The first is a continuous slant towards the western world in terms of the coverage of issues. This represents the priorities of these organization in designating reporters to cover international affairs in a world of shrinking budgets for foreign correspondents.

Secondly, it reflects a severe paucity of news coming out from the non- western world because of lack of adequate resources and training. This is why audiences in the west will rarely hear about global crises.

The UNHCR’s Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2015 estimates that around 65.3 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes due to war, persecution or genocide; the most since World War 2. Out of these, 16 million hail from African nations; an increase of 1.4 million from the previous year. The high numbers can be attributed to numerous crises plaguing the continent including ongoing conflicts in Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sudan and South Sudan. Other factors include Boko Haram’s activities in Nigeria and the political violence caused by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s unconstitutional re-election as president of Burundi for a third term.

As of 2016, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, estimates that 8 out of the 10 largest refugee camps in the world are in Africa. The other two are in Jordan and Pakistan. Most have seen a significant spike in the past two years. Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda remain the largest recipients of refugees on the continent considering the proximity to Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and the DRC.

To clarify terminology, the 16 million displaced in Africa include 10.7 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) which means that while they have fled their homes they remain within the borders of their countries where they remain in deplorable health and safety conditions and with limited rights. Naturally, the countries with the highest number of IDPs are the ones with the highest amount of violence, namely, Sudan, South Sudan, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

What to watch for in 2017

An Aerial View of Dadaab: The World’s Largest Refugee Camp

The world’s largest refugee camp is Dadaab in Kenya. It now houses 350,000 people even though it was built for 90,000 people in 1991 during the political conflict in neighbouring Somalia. In November last year, due to pressure from the international community, the Kenyan government delayed the closing of Dadaab by six months. While the Kenyan government sees this as a vital step to ensure security and to reduce the severe strain on their already-limited resources, this move will lead to utter despair of the inhabitants who do not have a home to return to. This will be a significant story to follow in April 2017.

A key piece of news to follow in 2017 is the negotiation of the New York Agreement in the United Nations. While it is encouraging that nations are recognizing and taking action relating to refugee issues, skeptics believe that no tangible outcome will emerge over the next two years of negotiations. This is because countries are impacted varyingly by migration crises and hence, their willingness to dedicate resources to causes not considered to be in their vital interests are slim.  Contrary to what news consumers around the world may believe, the countries being most impacted by the refugee crises around the world are disproportionately those that have a minor voice in global affairs.

M. Sudhir Selvaraj

M. Sudhir Selvaraj writes the Weekly Security Brief for GCN. He is a fellow with the Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life. His interests lie in security of religious minorities, secularism, U.S. foreign policy and politics of South Asia. He is currently pursuing his doctoral studies at King’s College London. He has a master’s (with distinction) in International Relations from the Department of War Studies, King’s College London and graduated cum laude (with honors) from Concordia College, Minnesota with majors in Political Science and Global Studies and a minor in Business.

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