“Not a Refugee Crisis, but a Crisis of Solidarity”:
Changing the Discourse towards Solidarity for Humanitarian Aid
Valeria Vera, MIMS student
In May 2016, Ban Ki-moon authored a call-to-action titled, “Refugees and Migrants: A Crisis of Solidarity,”, urging world leaders and the U.N. to respond in solidarity to “one of the leading challenges of our time”: the large movements of forced migrants and refugees. Yet, in 2017, the number of displaced people climbed to 68.5 million, with 85% of those displaced hosted in countries in development, and 44 thousand people forcibly fleeing their countries daily -- 31 people per minute.
With the rise of nationalism and xenophobia, even the “leading” states are becoming complicit in human rights abuses. The EU is now funding Lybia for “migration-control,” -- to detain refugees headed to Europe in “nightmarish” conditions in which prison guards deny them medical and psychological attention, and torture them. United States authorities continue tear-gassing migrants in Mexico.
Human Rights Watch witnessed two women having what appeared to be seizures after one had attempted suicide at Tajoura detention center, Tripoli. © 2018 John Holmes for Human Rights Watch
But referring to the fleeing migrants as a “crisis” is also a deep-rooted issue that needs to change: the crises are what the refugees are fleeing and our response to their movements.
In January 2019, to understand more about current humanitarian aid solidarity, 21 USF graduate students set out to Rome, Italy, for the Academic Global Immersion Program on Forced Migration and Refugee Service Management. We met humbling and passionate individuals, such as Father Fabio Baggio, Pope Francis’ Under Secretary to the Vatican’s Migrants and Refugee program, who drafted the 20 Action Points for the Global Compacts, urging the Catholic church to act in solidarity and cooperate, welcome, protect, promote and integrate migrants and refugees; two African refugees, from Mali and Côte D’Ivoire, who create political audio tours of Rome through their perspectives, increasing awareness and solidarity with refugees; and large-scale organizations including Save the Children and Médecins Sans Frontières who were at the forefront of search and rescue missions, saving over 800,000 individuals from drowning between 2015 and 2018, until the EU forced them to cease operations.
When 85% of those displaced are in countries in development, Western and developed countries are failing in sharing sufficient responsibility to responding to crises they have likely created abroad. The organizations and individuals we met through AGI Rome evidence that solidarity humanitarian aid is possible -- not as a matter of charity, but as a matter of human rights. It is viable through strengthening intersectional and multi-disciplinary networks, adopting remedies such as counseling, rebellious legal aid, housing, medical care, safe spaces, and access to education and dignified employment, to ensure that forced migrants can regain a sense of hope and control over their lives -- especially those who are LGBTQ. Granting them legal protection is not enough because status alone cannot restore an individual’s lifelong suffering caused by severe childhood, sexual, domestic, or gendered trauma. Solidarity humanitarian aid means natives, politicians, clergy, mental health practitioners, educators, academics, physicians, authorities, and the police grant forced migrants their own voice and help them become their own advocates; accompany their journey to healing; grant them justice, freedom, dignity, and full access to their human rights.
- Black, T. (2019, January 23). The EU is no friend of migrants. Retrieved from https://www.spiked-online.com/2019/01/23/the-eu-is-no-friend-of-migrants-libya/
- Edwards, A. (2018, June 19). Forced displacement at record 68.5 million. Retrieved from https://www.unhcr.org/news/stories/2018/6/5b222c494/forced-displacement-record-685-million.html
- Global Compact on Refugees | Refugees and Migrants. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://refugeesmigrants.un.org/refugees-compact
- Ki-moon, B. (2016, May 09). Refugees and Migrants: A Crisis of Solidarity. Retrieved from https://unu.edu/publications/articles/refugees-and-migrants-a-crisis-of-solidarity.html
- Médecins Sans Frontières. (n.d.). Search and rescue in the Mediterranean. Retrieved from https://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/search-and-rescue-mediterranean
- Sunderland, J., & Salah, H. (2019, January 21). No Escape from Hell | EU Policies Contribute to Abuse of Migrants in Libya. Retrieved from https://www.hrw.org/report/2019/01/21/no-escape-hell/eu-policies-contribute-abuse-migrants-libya#
- Yuhas, A. (2019, January 01). U.S. Agents Fire Tear Gas Across Mexican Border. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/01/world/americas/migrants-border-tear-gas.html