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Thoughts & Views: 52 million without country to call their own

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Imagine a winter scenario in which New York Gov. Cuomo is persuaded that his neighbors are meddling with the intrastate bridges and tunnels and orders out the Empire State militia and National Guard to invade the Garden State.

The state government in Trenton quickly topples, Gov. Christie abandons Drumthwacket and the State Police provide him with a high speed escort to a top secret Morris County retreat – quicker than you can say, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”

Meanwhile, the Cuomo invaders don’t stop with taking over all transportation infrastructure – they begin occupying all state, county and local government offices, postal facilities, schools, businesses and forcing residents out of their homes, confiscating everything from private vehicles to farmlands, looting and burning as they go.

Hapless New Jersey defenders quickly disappear into the Pinelands and displaced civilians – grabbing only what they can easily carry – stream onto the local roads (Turnpike, Parkway, Rts. 3 and 280 all blocked by N.Y. militia) and head for Pennsylvania and Delaware in hope of finding refuge there.

Those states grudgingly permit the frozen, weary travelers entry but, with their economies already taxed to the limit, bureaucrats scramble to set up temporary lodgings in second-hand trailers and tents scrounged from FEMA. Food is trucked in – when the snow-packed roads are negotiable and not being strafed by New York drones – from scant emergency pantries.

Hard to imagine? Yes, indeed, but that’s the kind of life that millions of people – more than 50 million by one United Nations estimate – around the globe are facing as a result of being displaced from their native lands.

As reported by The Guardian on June 19, “The number of people forced to flee their homes across the world has exceeded 50 million for the first time since the second world war, an exponential rise that is stretching host countries and aid organizations to the breaking point, according to figures released [by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees]” for 2013.

The Guardian quoted UNHCR head Antonio Guterres as saying, “We are witnessing a quantum leap in forced displacement in the world.”

By the UNHCR’s calculations, the civil war in Syria bumped up the 2012 global count by 6 million alone. As reported by The Guardian, “By the end of last year, 2.5 million Syrians had fled across the country’s borders and 6.5 million were internally displaced – more than 40% of the population.”

Fighting in the Central African Republic and South Sudan accounted for further displacement, the international agency report said.

An average of 32,200 people had to leave their homes every day, according to the agency. That’s comparable to the communities of Garfield or Orange or Fair Lawn suddenly emptying out.

Of the estimated 51.2 million forced to leave their homes worldwide, the UNHCR classifies 16.7 million as “refugees,” of whom Palestinians, Afghans, Syrians and Somalis comprise about half the total and are being absorbed primarily by Pakistan, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

Nearly 1.2 million of the global total are listed as “asylum seekers,” the majority of whom are being hosted by Germany.

And 33.3 million of the total are “internally displaced people,” meaning they were forced out of their homes but stayed in their home countries.

Of those who end up leaving their homelands, Guterres says that many are preyed on by “increasingly sophisticated trafficking gangs” who use “rape, torture, sexual exploitation, organ harvesting, extortion and murder” to exploit them.

Needless to say, children – thousands unaccompanied by parents or relatives – are the most defenseless against such criminality.

The U.S., of course, continues to struggle with its own “hosting” of immigrants, many fleeing north from impoverished Central America or from criminal gangs in Mexico. Periodic calls for “immigration reform” measures were heard on Capitol Hill but the House and the Senate have been unable to agree on legislation.

And so runs the world away from one of its most pressing people issues.

– Ron Leir 

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