The African Refugee Crisis at a Glance

Article by Mannis Wesley III

According to the Center for Preventive Actions (CPA), there are currently 28 ongoing global conflicts around the world.  It can be said that only a few of these conflicts are being showcased by media outlets whether it’s due to small westernized interests or propaganda reasons. To date, Africa is the most conflicted continent in the world with thousands of victims dying each year, which in return leaves thousands of refugees vulnerable without the basic social entities needed to survive. The most developed country in Africa; South Africa; has portrayed decades of xenophobia and systematic abuse against African refugees.  As the most liberal African democracy, South Africa is a mecca for refugees. It receives the most asylum applications in Africa and many are political refugees from countries where violence and anti US rhetoric is rampant. This has placed a strain on SA’s resources and there are credible fears that refugees fail to integrate socially, politically and economically. Worst, there are instances of violence, police bribery, and unfair and inhumane treatment of refugees at the governmental agencies that are supposed to assist them.

During an internship with the South African organization PASSOP (People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty) in 2013, I witnessed such treatment and unrest and wrote articles that shed light on the inequities experienced by refugees and asylum seekers in Cape Town. Refugees are often destitute, isolated, or returned to their home countries, where some are placed in refugee camps vulnerable to armed conflict and radical groups.   The expansion of radical groups poses a threat to US national security since most of them are resentful towards the US. Most are tied to and receive funds from Al-Qaeda and groups such as the Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab have terrorized communities and abducted young adults.

Although a model for democracy, discriminatory attitudes learned during the Apartheid era have not yet disappeared, and the South African government’s poor delivery of services have contributed to xenophobia. These issues destabilize the region and pose a threat to United States national security interests.  One such refugee crisis that posts a threat to the United States National Security is the Boko Haram conflict of Nigeria.
Boko Haram is an Islamic terrorist movement based in Northeast Nigeria with ties to Chad, Niger, and northern Cameroon. This group has up to 10,000 people and has been linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL. Between 2009 and 2014, Boko Haram has killed more than 5,000 civilians. The name “Boko Haram” constitutes, as “western influence is a sin” and refers to western education as “fake”. Any citizens supporting westernized culture are being condemned by Boko Haram through rape, torture, kidnappings, and murder. And worst, the refugee camps in Nigeria seem to be escalating the problem through below average services and inhumane treatment.

According to the medical charity, Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF), 1,200 people have died from starvation and illness in the refugee aid camps of Northeastern Nigeria. This refugee camp contained over 24,000 people (15,000 were children). To say that this camp is “overcrowded” is an understatement. As the MSF team continued to examine this refugee camp, they have found 1,233 graves near the camp that have been dug within the past year with 480 of the graves belonging to children. Overall in Nigeria, according to statistics, five children per hour are dying of starvation.  Over 3.5 million Nigerians face food insecurity and there is over 1.5 million malnourished children under the age of 5.

As stated earlier in the write-up, not addressing refugee crises poses a national security threat to westernized nations. According to officials, European nations could suffer drastically from this notion. Intelligence officials report that Boko Haram soldiers are currently breaking into refugee camps and are in the process of transporting young children and women north towards the Mediterranean Sea to be suicide bombers and could be strategically planning to target European capitals. In general, radical groups love to recruit people who are “helpless”’ and “vulnerable” and who have nowhere else to go.

In 2015, The United States has provided more that $359 million to Nigeria to assist people affected by the Boko Haram crisis. These funds was intended to provide humanitarian assistance, including food, water, shelter, and services to address acute hygiene, protection, and nutritional needs. This is a very positive step… but could more be done by the United States to assists these victims? Could refugee Resettlement be a better and more reliable option?  In 2016, The President of the United States Barack Obama finalized the annual refugee presidential determination. The presidential determination in consultation with congress determines how many refugees can be admitted annually into the United States. In 1980 over 200,000 refugees were admitted in the United States. Now fast forward to 2016 which has more global conflicts throughout the world  and the United States has a much bigger budget than it did in the 80’s…. yet the presidential determination statute for 2016 is only at 85,000 refugees. Many factors play a role into the decreased number of refugee admittance but one thing is for certain,  MORE REFUGEES NEED TO BE ADMITTED INTO THE UNITED STATES TO PROVIDE THEM SAFE HAVEN AND PATHWAY TO A PRODUCTIVE LIFE.   The best way to combat terrorism is to have a sense of compassion for people who are most affected by these terrorist groups… refugees.

Pictures from a Refugee Reception Center in Cape Town, South Africa (Summer 2013)

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