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Jakarta Post

Growing humanity needed to address refugee problems

Desy Nurhayati
Ubud, Bali   ●   Sat, October 4, 2014

As the latest UN report recorded a sharp increase in refugees due to civil wars, three authors in the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival on Friday discussed the issues facing refugees globally and the efforts to protect human rights.

In the session themed '€œHuman Rights'€, they shared their thoughts on the root causes of refugee issues, including '€œselfishness, dysfunction of society and the erosion of the norms and values of humanity'€.

'€œAs long as you treat the human rights of refugees as exceptional, it will remain a problem. The refugees will remain like '€˜special people in a zoo'€™,'€ said Mukesh Kapila, who is a professor of global health and humanitarian affairs at Manchester University in the UK.

'€œWhen you recognize that the refugee problem is a symbol of the dysfunction of society, in the end we will thank them for being a '€˜magnifying glass'€™ that allows us to face the fundamental disconnection issues undermining humanity,'€ said Kapila, who has extensive experience in humanitarianism and human rights.

According to the UN Refugee Agency annual report released in June, civil wars had forced a staggering 51 million people worldwide to leave home by the end of last year. Most of the forcibly displaced were homeless in their own countries, known as internally displaced persons, while 16.7 million people were refugees in another land.

The discussion on refugees, considered amongst the most imperiled people on the planet '€” exiled, losing homes, family and friends, also touched on the issue of capitalism.

'€œCapitalism is part of the bigger refugee problem. It creates more poor people everywhere, including Indonesia,'€ commented Iraqi-born author and filmmaker Hassan Blasim.

He also cited the case of the Syrian civil war, in which Syrian people taking refuge in Turkey after fleeing their home country were exploited to sell smuggled cigarettes.

  • Civil wars had forced a staggering 51 million people worldwide to leave their homes by the end of last year
  • Most of the forcibly displaced are homeless in their own countries, 16.7 million others are refugees in another land

'€œWho is behind all this? The west. They want to keep the cigarette market. The solution is that capitalism has got to be changed,'€ said Blasim, who has been PEN-awarded three times and was described by The Guardian as '€œperhaps the greatest writer of Arabic fiction alive'€.

Meanwhile, Kapila commented, '€œThe solution is not to make a refugee convention, nor to have another international conference, nor a moral agreement between states.

'€œThe solution is there has to be growth in basic humanity in every community.'€

Andre Dao, fiction and non-fiction writer, also editor-at-large of Right Now '€” a human rights media organization, read excerpts of his writing about the Malaysia Solution, in which he criticized the Australian government for implementing a policy to transfer asylum seekers to Malaysia under an amended Migration Act in 2012.

He wrote that there was no way Australia could guarantee that asylum seekers transferred to Malaysia would be treated with dignity.

'€œIf we are to take human rights seriously, there is no room to think in terms of aggregate positive outcomes. Each human being is unique, and each appeal for help deserves to be heard. If the government is unwilling to do this, then it must stop trying to disguise this utilitarian swap deal with human rights rhetoric.'€

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