The world we live in is bounded by various international borders, lines of control, sea routes restriction and a plethora of other barricades which prevent living beings to travel from one place to another without worrying about the consequences if one does not respect a country’s borders. It should be duly noted that the world in the primitive era, the world during the pre-farming era had no demarcation of lands. It was only when the greed of man to conquer more and more land under his name grew did various boundaries marking the countries came up. As time passed and as the concept of families leading to tribes which culminated in the formation of states came into existence, man turned more and more possessive about HIS land and HIS welfare. This feeling of insecurity gave a sort of platform for man to bar the entry of other living beings into his premises.
It is funny how this custom and habit of human beings hasn’t changed ever since. We still see multitudes of people running away from their homes in search of a better future, a secure niche to thrive. How ironic is the fact that the primitiveness of man has not changed one single bit and he still fights it out with sometimes fellow human beings and sometimes with the vicious acts of nature to live a life which he was entitled to do so.
The ever rise in the population, the discomfort present within some communities, the drastic climatic changes and the cutting edge competition existent in today’s world of “industrial growth” has prompted people to leave their homeland behind them in search for a better replacement.
A very pertinent question should now arise in the minds of the readers: Is this replacement better? Or, Do the migrants fall into a trap and commit a fatal mistake? Well, the answer to be found here is not a monosyllabic one which just says yes, no or maybe, but the answer one usually finds after actually asking these migrants to compare their lives before and after is a mixture, not a uniform one. While the pain of leaving your home behind and the memories of your country always stay there, sometimes haunt you, the optimism that life has to move on gives a sort of impetus to the migrants.
Present Day Scenario
The present day situation is the most dismal one. Never before the history of any country, has seen such a huge surge in the number of migrants fleeing their respective homelands. Never before such a huge humanitarian crisis loomed as large as it does today. What we see today is not an overnight cause and effect but a continuous process which has been there in the world for many, many years now.
The first signs of migrants’ crisis were witnessed in the country viewed as one filled with opportunities: The United States of America. The Kennedy government in order to tackle the country-fixed-quota migration formulated The Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, better known as the Hart-Cellar Act. The fixed quota for Asians, Latin Americans and Africans was looked as a draconian step to curb the flow of immigration post The Civil War, The Vietnam War. The illegal inflow of migrants grew due to the quota fixed upon their being an Asian, African or Latin American as the lure of fleeing their respective was in a lot of people.
The Immigration and Naturalization Act, 1965 has gone through various reforms and amendments in subsequent years. Though the quota system has been abolished, we still see people entering America illegally. Out of these illegal entries, Mexicans bag the top spot as one in ten born there presently lives in The States. Though the trend has declined a bit but that is merely due to the cause that plenty of Mexicans have started living in America so virtually ending the chance of calling them “migrants” or “refugees”. In 2013 itself, nearly 11.6 million Mexicans were residing in America changing the demographic look of the country to a great extent.
Many Asians, especially Indians, have also made America their new abode and the number of Indians applying for a permanent citizenship there has increased drastically in the past few years. Indians have mainly confined themselves to the legal method of entering the U.S. as Indians residing in The U.S. belong to the upper-class constituting doctors, engineers, et al. Nearly six Indians as compared to one Chinese apply for green cards showing either the tremendous opportunity we as citizens see in America or the lack of it present in our own.
Well, apart from the illegal entries to America, the situation there looks stable when compared to what is happening in present day Europe. Europe is facing the biggest migrant crisis creating a marked difference in opinion of the EU countries. While countries like Germany and Hungary have opened their arms quite wide for the migrants and the refugees, there is present an equal dissent among countries like the United Kingdom and Italy which believe that the migrants may behave as parasites and take up jobs in an already saturated job arena as that of Europe.
The war torn countries in the Middle East have forced people to run for their lives and start their lives ab initio. Syria, as we all know has been the most vulnerable hotspot. Terrorist organisations like the ISIS, (also known as the ISIL) have made Syria bear the grunt of their frustration as various atrocities like murders, extortions, kidnapping of children and rapes are being performed in the name of Allah and the Caliphate. Young men of tender age are getting indoctrinated to join the wave of their resurrection and grown adults are either coerced to join the group or are killed if they show resistance of any sort.
This above mentioned atmosphere is present in Syria which leaves people with no other option but to pack their bags and go to some other relatively “safe” country. The Mediterranean route which leads to Europe is most looked after. More than 7,00,000 migrants have already entered Europe (post the Syrian war) and the number of asylum seekers has been rising every day. Apart from Syrians, nationals belonging to Afghanistan and Kosovo have also opted for a journey which leads to Europe.
If we want to see people wailing for humanitarian support from everyone, we need not go far. The Rohingya people, residing in Myanmar are deprived of their basic legal rights and are persecuted and no help seems to knock at their doors. These people have been fighting, nay, trying to fight for their rights ever since they entered Myanmar but they are silenced there as getting labelled as refugees from Bangladesh.
Migrants’ Crisis in India during the pandemic
Taslima Nasreen, in her book Lajja, has given a vivid display of refugees wanting to enter India from the East. The East Pakistan, now known as Bangladesh is a Muslim state and Hindus are a minority there. The refugee crisis can be traced back as early to the Partition of India which was followed by The Liberation War, 1971 which made Bangladesh an independent country altogether. Hindus, who were left behind have been yearning to return to their country, which in this case is, India or are forced to leave Bangladesh for the simple fact that they are Hindus. Various treaties have been formulated but they are left stranded in the air and haven’t been implemented as they should have been.
The Tamils residing in Sri Lanka have also faced ostracization time and again but their situation too has not changed much. The Civil War in itself consisted various human rights abuses by the Sri Lankan government on Tamilians who were in no way connected to the LTTE.
While these aforementioned instances are people flip flopping between two countries, the situation which arose during the Covid-19 pandemic is truly unprecedented and local. ‘Reverse migration’ is a process where the migrants return to their homes has gained momentum during the pandemic. The pandemic has engulfed the entire world and has wrecked havoc on the lives of the poor and the marginalised people, especially in the developing and the Third World nations.
India, with a population over 1.3 Billion is by no means a “developed” nation. In his book Everybody Loves a Good Drought, journalist P. Sainath has highlighted the fact that during 1951-90, over 21.6 million people have been displaced, all in the name of “development”. Add to this the morbid and the fatal clutches of Covid-19, the situation is like the work of a devil. Conflicted between stringent lockdowns, massive lay-offs by employers and a yearning for your loved ones, our labour force had one option with them: they walked! Heart wrenching scenes on social media and some news channels of the migrants walking towards their respective homes were astonishing. Emerging pictures and videos where the labourers were assaulted, water cannoned and sprayed disinfectants on were doing the rounds and made one realize how lucky we are to have a roof on top of our heads. Poor vendors, trying to sell vegetables/fruits/etc. were robbed, putting a blot on India’s quest to become a champion of human rights’ nation.
The author would like to highlight the imperative duty of the various state and the Centre government in ensuring the protection of these homeless, voiceless millions which form the true “face” of the modern India.
What needs to be done ?
Before dwelling on the question of what needs to be done, the author would like to throw some light on what is being done. Firstly, the matter at hand, for the protection of refugees is subjective and thus we see that every country has a different opinion when it comes to it. Secondly, the absence of any concrete treaty at the international level has resulted in countries manipulating the conventions according to their own pleasure. The third and the most important aspect to the migrants’ crisis is the indifference shown by many countries when it comes to the issues mentioned above. These countries and political parties forget that the crisis of a certain people fighting for a place to live in is not country-specific but it encompasses the world at large.
What needs to be done? Well, first of all, implementation of the treaties ensuring human rights’ protection and following the tenets of the UNHRC to the t is a must. Today, in a highly polarized world and especially in the wake of certain phobias (especially Europe) against various religions (read, Islam) have laid bare the xenophobia inherent within us, no matter where we are on the ‘development’ wrung of the ladder. The “Us versus Them” argument is detestable from a human rights perspective as no matter what the motive is; the very first step should be to give these refugees and migrants proper shelter, rest everything shall follow. The second defence which the anti-migration faction uses is that giving a place to thrive in their country will be arbitrary for the “original” habitants of the country. This view holds water somewhat but is not hundred person full proof. The migrants don’t just enter the social milieu of any country as soon as they are given a place to live in. After fending off various obstacles like social, communal and economical biases only do they try to enter any public or private sector for jobs and that usually consist of hand-to-mouth in nature.
At home, we got to realize the paramount importance of safeguarding the rights of every individual member of the society. It is pertinent to realize that a democracy is one where the principles of human rights are followed strictly. Every human being, whether she owns a billion dollars or none, has an equal right to vote or move or reside anywhere he wants.
Not everything is gloomy, though. Out of all the European countries, Germany has behaved as the biggest benefactor resulting in more influx of migrants into the country. It is to be noted that nearly 25% migrants make Germany as their ultimate destination. How ironic is the fact that Germany, a country which was not minutely safe for Jews, its own inhabitants, is now taking in people by their own volition. The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel should be lauded for her behaving as the sole light at the end of the tunnel despite the fact that she has made some party members upset. The world is one big family and we don’t let our family members to be there in dearth of anything. It should be looked from this perspective that people vying for a place to live are no different to us, just a little handicapped. The situation now faced by our brothers and sisters could be our own predicament one day in this volatile and post Covid world. The question will then get transformed into: Where do I go?