Sunday, May 27, 2007

Weekly Commentary - On the West and Refugees

While President Bush and the outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair shower us with their rhetorical concern for suffering Darfurians, both countries have shown remarkable stinginess in granting them political asylum.

A recent British report tells the story of one Darfurian refugee who was denied asylum on the grounds that his account of rebel activities conflicted with information available on Wikipedia. More generally, human rights groups allege that Britian has deported hundreds of Darfurians due to its insistence that "it is safe to send 'ordinary non-Arab ethnic Darfuris' back to Sudan" - whatever that means.

Things are also less than rosy in the nation which claims to be carrying out a "global democratic revolution."

Recent reports indicate that only three Darfurians have been granted asylum in the U.S. in the last four years, one of whom (Daoud Ibarahaem Hari) worked as a translator for the journalists Nicholas Kristof and Paul Salopek, and benefitted in his case from the "high-level intervention" of the U2 rock star and activist Bono, New Mexico Governor and presidential candidate Bill Richardson, and the former president Jimmy Carter.

As Daoud recounts the hundreds of Darfurian refugees he is aware of in Ghana, living in "very hard circumstances," and without, one might add, "high-level intervention" from the aforementioned figures, he notes that "they didn't get a chance to resettlement in United States at all."

One might also note that in Israel, Washington's key regional partner in Arab oppression, most of the over 300 Sudanese refugees who have entered the country "are still in Israeli prisons." Steeped as the nation’s leaders are in tear-soaked memories of the Nazi holocaust, the leading Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz notes that "it appears that the state and its officials are doing everything in their power to be rid of these refugees," with other news sources paraphrasing the Interior Minister to the effect that "Sudanese refugees trying to get into Israel…had to be stopped," lest the country be "flooded." Needless to say, no similar concerns were expressed about Beirut's ability to absorb the significant portion of the Lebanese population that was driven out of that country's southern region last year by Israel, as the U.S. and Britain stalled any international diplomatic moves to bring a halt to the wanton Israeli bombardment.

Especially righteous critics of the mass imprisonment like Elie Wiesel, who has been actively calling for intervention in Darfur, and was in fact involved in the founding of the Save Darfur Coalition, have staked out their moral high ground by only calling on Israel to accept a "symbolic number" of the refugees.

Those who suffer under the direct watch of Uncle Sam fare little better; out of the 2 million refugees of the war in Iraq, in addition to the 1.8 million internally displaced persons, the U.S. had as of January 2007 admitted a mere 466 since the invasion in 2003. One would at least expect the U.S. to provide safe haven to its Iraqi collaborating forces, though, save for a limited exception, even such a crude measure is evidently beyond the scope of Washington's machinations.

Meanwhile, the official rogue state Syria generally leaves its borders open to fleeing Iraqis, having accepted some 1.2 million (a number increasing by around 40,000 per month) - and, it has been doing so, it should be noted, "without any help from the outside world."

Returning to the African continent, the recent U.S. sponsored invasion and occupation of Somalia by Ethiopia has created "a worse [refugee] crisis than Darfur or Chad or anywhere else this year," according to John Holmes, the U.N.'s lead humanitarian official. Four hundred thousand people have been internally displaced, with the press reporting the curiousity that, "Unlike in Sudan, Holmes said no emergency camps have been set up to help the refugees. Most of those who have fled, including women, children and the elderly, are camping in fields without access to food, shelter, clean water or medicines." One need not be cynical to conjecture that this is somehow related to the fact that these evidently less worthy victims are of no propaganda value, since their displacment has come at the behest of a U.S. ally.

It is not difficult to draw conclusions about the vast chasms between the West's rhetoric and reality on Iraq and Darfur, and the refugees from these conflicts, or about cases such as Somalia for which even rhetorical support is eschewed by our leaders. There is also little reason to suspect that a "Save Somalia" movement, on par with its "Save Darfur" counterpart, will erupt amongst the Western human rights intelligentsia, for reasons that should by now be all too clear.

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