27 October 2016
Syrian and Iraqi refugees gather at a United Nations shelter. Photo: Tim I Gurung
Syrian and Iraqi refugees gather at a United Nations shelter. Photo: Tim I Gurung

When will the world come together over the refugee problem?

The refugee problem is not new. The world has been dealing with it probably from the very beginning of civilization.

But it seems that every time the problem is solved in one part of the world, it emerges in another, sometimes in a more lethal form.

It’s a problem that cannot be tackled by one or two nations. The world has to come together to find a lasting solution.

This is, of course, easier said than done.

There are three major refugee crises crying out for a concerted global effort. These are in Syria, Iraq and Myanmar.

The ongoing conflicts in Syria and Iraq have displaced millions of people.

Millions more have become refugees in the aftermath of the Arab Spring rebellions which began five years ago.

These conflicts have created another problem — human traffickers that have been profiting from the desperation and misery of refugees.

The Mediterranean Sea has witnessed countless deaths as people try to escape turmoil in their homeland.

Families become separated and loved ones lost without a trace.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world appears unmoved by all the suffering and carries on with daily life.

In Southeast Asia, the Rohingya crisis is as serious as the humanitarian catastrophe in the Middle East but gets scant attention from other countries, except from those directly affected by it such as Myanmar’s closest neighbors.

Even after the world was shown images of hungry and dying Rohingya abandoned in dilapidated boats by traffickers, there has been no significant global effort to help them.

If other countries have not been touched by the sense of despair in those heart-wrenching scenes, nothing probably will and I will have nothing more to add in this article.

But the harsh treatment of Rohingya Muslims by the Myanmar government and the inaction by the international community are among the reasons for the increasing animosity between Islam and the West.

The international community is too focused on Myanmar’s political reform. Foreign companies can’t wait to start doing business in the country.

Those already there are too busy making money but nobody seems to be doing anything about the Rohingya.

The refugee issue is a double-edged sword. It creates conditions for the rise of Islamic extremists such as ISIS. At the same time, it gives other countries an excuse to ignore the problem.

There are no winners in this dangerous game.

The best result is something that will prevent such a humanitarian nightmare from ever happening again and that requires a global solution.

We ignore problems in the hope they will simply disappear until they begin to affect us

But the reality is different. Trust me, these problems will come back to haunt us.

Even if something happens in a far corner of the globe, its ripples will reach us sooner or later.

The refugee problem in the Middle East and Myanmar is no exception.

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Refugees from the Middle East and Africa are shown in a makeshift vessel in this satellite picture.

Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar risk everything in a dilapidated boat as they flee persecution and discrimination.

EJ Insight contributor

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