”People flee from war, persecution and fear that reign in their lands in order to survive and protect their basic human rights with the hope of building a new life, risking their lives and facing severe persecution on their way to Europe,” writes Sara Aktaş for Yeni Özgür Politika.
As we witness, yet again, the thousands of refugees, predominantly from Southern and Rojava Kurdistan, trying to cross the Belarusian-Polish border, we feel the burning misery caused by the wars. Edward Said had long before written about the the fate that awaits humanity, that pays the price of imperialist war strategies.
”Out of Place’: This was the title the Palestinian intellectual Edward Said chose for his autobiography as he explained the fate of the lands where he had been born and raised. This title sums up the lives of thousands of people, who face losing all that they have, including their feeling of ‘belonging’ to a land, whilst they grapple in the dark, in between borders, countries, cities, schools, houses and languages.
Although the history of migration, displacement and deterritorialisation are longstanding concepts, they turned into matters of serious discussion after the the First World War, and they were discussed even more after the Second World War, during the Cold War period. Today, these issues constitute one of the most vital problems for humanity.
Mostly carried out by the United Nations (UN), the UN High Commission for Refugees and many other international organisations, the debates relating to migration and displacement have hardly reached a solution and this ‘problem’ increasingly deepens into a multi-dimensional humanitarian tragedy.
Starting with an historical background, which makes it possible for the reader to follow and make sense of the discussions presented in this article, let us first take note of the Geneva Convention, which was the first regulation that defined the legal status of refugees in 1951.
It was limited in aspects of migration policy, and its scope was expanded in 1967 with the Protocol on the Legal Status of Refugees.
A refugee, according to the Convention, is defined as “someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.”
No matter how we define these people, either as ‘refugees’ or ‘migrants’ or ‘asylum-seekers,’ we should not evaluate their conditions independent of imperialist policies. As a matter of fact, conflicts based on ideology and class, international wars, ethnic and religious conflicts, and the practices of oppressive authoritarian regimes have caused more people to become ‘refugees.’
For example, according to the statistics from the 1970s to the 1990s, approximately 14 million of 35 million refugees had to migrate due to international wars. After the collapse of multicultural empires, homogenisation of societies with fascist policies of nation states has become the basis of conflicts, massacres and forced migrations.
In a 2020 UN report, the number of people fleeing war and global displacement exceeded 82 million, doubling the figures of 10 years ago.
People flee from war, persecution and fear that reign in their lands in order to survive and protect their basic human rights with the hope of building a new life, risking their lives and facing severe persecution on their way to Europe. The essential cause of migration lies in the imperialist policies that result in wars, but imperialist countries see the ‘refugee question’ as a question of a ‘burden’ on their shoulders, as a question of ‘intruders.’
All these international powers do not deal with the root causes of migration, because these causes are internal to their own existence, to their policies. (…)
Migrants, when they begin to live in the borders of a new country as ‘refugees,’ continue to face problems in those countries. So, the ‘problem’ is not limited to the crises on the borders, but the unnerving, derogatory policies of the countries they try to build a new life in. Opening borders, too, does not solve the problems of the migrants and refugees.
Therefore, the most effective and permanent solution to these crises caused by the international powers is to fight against imperialist policies and policies of war to make the world a more livable place. Standing against imperialist hegemonic wars and destruction, creating awareness, is the most effective way to eliminate refugees crises. (…)
“In order to comprehend the exile as correlated to the causes of political punishment special to our era, one must cross the limits of the areas of experience, the mapping of which was done by literature. One should put aside Joyce, Nabokov and even Conrad, who authored dramatic texts about exile. Instead, one should think about the masses, from whom UN institutions were established and about the refugee villagers, who have no chance to return back to their homelands and who are stuck with their ration coupons for bread in their hands, and the ‘numbers assigned to them’ by the relevant institutions,” observed Edward Said.