Last week there was a very interesting debate on the refugee situation in the world. Sadly this is one of those topics that doesn’t get enough airing, but is of huge importance given the rising number of refugees, internally displaced persons and asylum seekers currently seeking justice and a safe home.
With Myanmar and the Rohinyas, Libya, Palestine, Syria and Iraq, there are countless stories of human misery on a massive scale. As I always try to do, I intervened to ask MPs not to forget the plight of the Sudanese, including the world’s newest country South Sudan.
I’ve taken an interest in the politics, economic stability and human rights of this part of Africa for many years. Having visited three times in the past I hope to make another visit later in the year.
It used to be true that one in six of the world’s refugees came from the Sudan. With other crisis points emerging, this proportion has fallen, but the situation in that country (now countries) is worse than ever.
Since its break with the North, South Sudan has had, bar a few months of peace, an ongoing civil war between the two main tribes, the Dinkas and the Nuer, as represented by their proxies.
This has cost tens of thousands of lives and the effect on the economy has been devastating.
To the west, in Darfur, which grabbed the world’s attention a decade ago, the situation is now worse than it was when it occupied major news space. There is a growth of slavery, and young men are now being farmed for their body parts. Law and order has all but broken down, not helped by the gradual withdrawal of the UN mission there.
There is little wonder that the number of refugees is rapidly escalating, worsened by the effects of climate change. Darfur was, in some respects, the world’s first climate change war, the pastoralists conflicting with the arable farmers.
The UK is a popular destination for those seeking safe haven. Our colonial past, the importance of the English language and our reputation for tolerance remains an attraction. Having worked with GARAS (Gloucestershire Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers) for many years, the impact of their work to help those seeking a new, safe life is obvious. I’m pleased that Stroud is playing its part and taking more Syrian families, allowing them to start again after the depredations of their previous life.
There is always more to do but in a small way we are all making a contribution.