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Say no to policies that kill

  • Published at 07:04 pm June 28th, 2016
Say no to policies that kill

A massive 60 million people are now displaced worldwide -- the largest number since World War II, according to the UN.

Between January 1 and December 31, 2015, an estimated 1,008,616 fled to Europe by sea. 84% of them came from refugee-producing countries, with 49% of them coming from Syria, 21% from Afghanistan, and 9% from Iraq. 17% were women and 25% were children under the age of 18.

Despite winter conditions, and attempts to close the Mediterranean Sea route, people have not stopped fleeing, and between January and April 2016, more than 180,000 people have arrived in Europe. Another 1,200 people have died or gone missing on the way.

‘We hope the war will come to an end, the bloodshed will stop and displaced people will be able to return home. But it seems it’s not likely to happen soon. We are doing what we can and even more. We are happy when we see our patients recover. It gives us more resolve to continue the work we are doing’ -- Yahya Jarad, nursing supervisor at MSF’s Al Salamah Hospital, Syria

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF), the international medical humanitarian organisation, believes that today’s humanitarian crisis in Europe is the result of a collective catastrophic failure to respond to the urgent need for assistance and protection of over a million men, women, and children. The lack of safe and legal options for people to flee, the razor wire fences, capriciously closed borders, squalid, inhumane reception conditions, and the complicated, ever-changing registration procedures aggravated the already miserable conditions imposed on thousands fleeing war, poverty, and oppression. This served only to make fleeing more dangerous and increase the suffering of those on the move.

Between January 1 and December 31, 2015, MSF teams provided more than 100,000 medical consultations to refugees and migrants on its search and rescue vessels in the Mediterranean Sea, in Italy, Greece, in the Balkans, and in Western Europe. But MSF rescuers are witnessing and hearing similar stories of fear, misery, and violence the world over: From Morocco, Mexico, Yemen, Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece, and southern Europe, and from Central and South America into the United States.

More locally, MSF teams witness it across the Andaman Sea, in Myanmar, and also in Kutupalong, Bangladesh, where MSF runs a clinic offering health care to Rohingya people fleeing Myanmar as well as for the local community in and around Ukhia.

In a world plagued by conflict, poverty, and inequality, population movements are inevitable and governments must find a way to manage migration that minimises suffering rather than create it.

As a medical humanitarian organisation with more than 40 years of experience providing assistance to people on the move, MSF’s request is simple: Stop applying policies that kill and prolong anguish.

‘We thought that Europe might protect people who have suffered the kind of suffering we have undergone. But we feel like criminals, forced to hide in the mountain. Look at where we are. We pray that someone hears us, so that the road opens. I don’t want to die here. I don’t want to die watching my grandchildren suffering. I don’t have much time left on this Earth, so I don’t have much longer to wait. Ever since what happened in Sinjar, I haven’t sung any more’ -- Khaled, a Yazidi man from Sinjar Mountain in Iraqi Kurdistan. He is in Katsikas camp, Greece, with his family since March 18, 2016.The family apologised twice because they had no tea to offer, and offered to share the food distributed by the NGO

Health care in rescue ships

In 2015, MSF teams on board three search and rescue ships in the Central Mediterranean assisted over 23,000 people in 120 separate rescue interventions.

The hardship people endure on these journeys is shocking for MSF teams to witness. They know first-hand the devastation war inflicts in places like Somalia, Syria, and Sudan, the systematic discrimination in Myanmar and the subsistence living and constant social and political turmoil in many parts of Sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia, which force millions to flee.

But they also hear horrific stories of the flight itself -- people left to die of dehydration in the Sahara, packed like cattle into warehouses, trucks, and ships or raped, tortured, and starved in Libya and Thailand. Indeed, the journey itself, both for the forcibly displaced and the so-called migrants, can quite literally be fatal. At the very least, the chronic abuse suffered on the journey leads to lasting physical injury and psychological trauma.

‘We thought that Europe might protect people who have suffered the kind of suffering we have undergone. But we feel like criminals, forced to hide in the mountain. Look at where we are. We pray that someone hears us, so that the road opens. I don’t want to die here. I don’t want to die watching my grandchildren suffering. I don’t have much time left on this Earth, so I don’t have much longer to wait. Ever since what happened in Sinjar, I haven’t sung any more’ -- Khaled, a Yazidi man from Sinjar Mountain in Iraqi Kurdistan. He is in Katsikas camp, Greece, with his family since March 18, 2016.The family apologised twice because they had no tea to offer, and offered to share the food distributed by the NGO

Again, governments must stop applying policies that kill and prolong the anguish; instead, they must provide protection and assistance based on humanitarian imperatives according to needs that ensure basic human dignity.

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