There has been an increase in the number of refugees across the developing world, Asia and Africa in particular, fleeing conflicts and economic hardship in their home countries to seek social relief and peace in the so-called developed world.
But reaching those Eldorados has proved to be a huge mountain to climb for these traumatised and under-resourced refugees.
So, most of them resorted to using some dangerous means to reach these destinations, which unfortunately have culminated to major disasters, including death, serious injuries and ultimately a lifetime trauma.
This week the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has urged rich nations, especially the European Union, to open their borders and let refugees in.
The UNHCR has pointed to the growing numbers of Syrians seeking safety in Europe, saying that it was concerned about severe difficulties these displaced people face during their passage at borders.
This includes the risk of drowning at sea and incidents where Syrians have been dangerously hindered in their journeys, the UN refugee agency said this week.
UNHCR chief spokesperson Melissa Fleming cited the case of a boat carrying between 400 and 500 Syrians and Palestinians that sank in the Mediterranean last Friday.
Only 200 people have been rescued.
“We are disturbed that the cause of the tragedy could well be attributed to shots that were fired after the boat left Libya, injuring four passengers and damaging the hull,” Fleming said in remarks posted on the organisation’s website.
The UN refugee agency said it was working with governments, the EU and other partners to put in place a comprehensive response to saving lives of refugees and migrants at sea.
UNHCR is calling for a number of measures to prevent further tragedies and increase responsibility sharing.
Apart from much-needed solidarity through financial and other contributions to affected countries in the region for addressing the humanitarian and emergency development needs, the UN refugee agency said solidarity could take the form of the following:
• humanitarian admission
• simplified and expedited family reunion,
• facilitated visa procedures and the extension of student or employment-related visas
UNHCR welcomes a number of offers in this regard, but urges other states to join this effort. The agency also urges host countries to stop detaining refugees who arrive without any form of identification.
Photo: A Syrian young refugee with his mother in France. Credit: UNHCR/J. Tanner