September 26th 2015

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Abbott era ends as Liberals oust elected PM

EDITORIAL The future of the Liberals after leadership coup

FAMILY AND SOCIETY Vulnerable GLBT youth pawns in plebiscite game

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Cuts in aid trigger mass migration: more to come?

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Labor campaign to 'get' Dyson Heydon backfires

FOREIGN AFFAIRS China's official media hints at power struggle in Beijing

ASIA Taiwan: no longer the Kingdom of Youth

MILITARY HISTORY Antony Beevor at the Australian War Memorial

LIFE ISSUES Assisted suicide and our society of autonomy

SCIENCE You can trust research papers (we think; we hope)

PUBLIC HEALTH Taxpayer funding offers no immunity from failure

MINING Supreme Court dismisses attack on Qld Land Court

CINEMA Technology and the antisocial network: The Social Network

BOOK REVIEW Hollow Heroes: An Unvarnished Look at the Careers of Churchill, Montgomery and Mountbatten, by Michael Arnold


NATIONAL AFFAIRS Turnbull divides party in Cabinet reshuffle

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Cuts in aid trigger mass migration: more to come?

by Patrick J. Byrne

News Weekly, September 26, 2015

In late August, more than 200,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan awoke to a text message saying that World Food Program (WFP) was cutting their food rations.

The option for many was to head back into the war-torn countries from which they had fled, or take the dangerous route to Europe.

The Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan

The Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan

The United Nations’ humanitarian work is not funded by regular contributions, but entirely by donations from member countries.

According to The Guardian (September 7, 2015): “The current global humanitarian funding budget for all countries stands at $US19.52 billion, but only $US7.15 billion of that has been raised from international donors.” [1]

The shortfall for Syrian refugees alone is $US3.47 billion. So far this year, the WFP has cut rations to
1.6 million Syrian refugees, according the UN News Service (June 25, 2015). [2]

In short, penny-pinching govern­ments around the world have suddenly triggered the mass migration to Europe of hundreds of thousands of people out of conflict regions across the Middle East, the Asian subcontinent and Africa.

An estimated 800,000 migrants are likely to seek asylum in Europe this year. So far about 2,500 have drowned crossing the Mediterranean, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

The cuts create other dangers. Hunger makes young refugees prime recruiting targets for Islamic State and other militant groups.

The WFP warned about the cuts last year. Twice this year there have been aid cuts to refugees in camps in northern Kenya and for Sudanese refugees in Uganda.

From January to August this year, 350,000 migrants have been recorded along the main entry routes to the European Union; the number was 240,000 in 2014.

The most popular routes are across the central and eastern Mediterranean and the western Balkans. The refugees have come from: Syria (107,000); Afghanistan (62,000); Eritrea (24,000); Kosovo (23,000); Nigeria (11,000); other sub-Saharan countries (10,000); and Pakistan (7,000).

Major drought in 2011 across the horn of Africa helped to ignite regional conflicts in Eritrea and Somalia, which had been strife-torn since the late 1980s.

Pressures for regime changes had been building in many Middle-Eastern countries as their large youth populations were increasingly educated but suffering from poverty and lack of job opportunities. Major droughts around the world in 2011 spiked food prices that, in turn, sparked protests in Tunisia, which in turn ignited the Arab Spring.

In 2006–11, about 60 per cent of Syria experienced its worst drought on record, wiping out the livelihood of about 800,000 people and causing many to migrate to the cities looking for food and work. This added to tensions with Syria’s repressive Government, which erupted into civil war (see The New York Times, April 7, 2012). [3]

So, is the migration crisis in Europe temporary or is it going to be a long-term issue?

First, there needs to be reliable recurring funding by the wealthy nations for refugee relief. Otherwise, desperate, hungry refugees escaping violent regimes and natural disasters will inevitably seek refuge in the European Union and the developed nations.

Second, extinguishing wars (particularly bitter Sunni-Shia conflicts) and transitioning violent dictatorships, especially in Africa, into stable political systems would greatly reduce the displacement of millions of people.

Third, there is the wider problem of poverty, corruption and mafia-style oligarchies afflicting countries such as Albania and Kosovo. Of the 196,000 who have applied for refugee status in Germany so far this year, 42 per cent are from Kosovo, Albania, Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro.

In these countries, also with bulging youth populations, young people want to escape hopelessness – lack of investment, corruption, organised crime, high unemployment, poverty, frustration and rage.

Der Spiegel Online reports: “A survey by Germany’s Friedrich Ebert Foundation found that close to two-thirds of 14-to-29-year-olds want to leave Albania, as do more than half of those in the same age group from Kosovo and Macedonia. They have lost all confidence in their young democracies, and they dream of a better life.

“They apply for asylum in Europe because that is the only way to obtain a residence permit” (Der Spiegel Online, August 26, 2015). [4]

This aspect of the crisis is indicative of the need for major development programs in many parts of the world to develop national economies and reduce poverty. Is that impossible?

Well, China has almost abolished poverty in its cities, having lifted more people out of poverty faster than any other country in history over the past 25 years. [5] And Africa has almost abolished hunger, except in the countries where the mad and the bad still rule. [6]

So, the answer is: it is possible.



[1] “UN Agencies ‘broke and failing’ in face of ever-growing refugee crisis”, The Guardian, September 7, 2015.

[2]Aid efforts for Syrian refugees imperiled by ‘staggering’ $3 billion funding gap – UN”, UN News Service. June 25, 2015.

[3] Thomas L Friedman, “The Other Arab Spring”, New York Times, April 7, 2012.

[4]  “Mass migration: what is driving the Balkans exodus?Spiegel Online, August 26, 2015.

[5]China has almost wiped out urban poverty. Now it must tackle inequality”, The Guardian, August 19, 2015.

[6] Matt Ridley, “Demography does not explain the migration crisis”, The Times. Republished on Matt Ridley’s Blog, September 6, 2015.


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