girls and men queue separately for cooked rations in Jalala camp,
Pakistan. The food has been donated by private citizens and the
Is Afraid of 300 Million Miserables?
BAHER KAMAL (IDN)
- There is a nation that does not appear on any map, has no name, no
religion, and no borders nor laws. It is ruled by unidentified pundits
and nobody recognises it. Its peoples were not born in the same land;
neither do they know each other. But they are all hard workers and they
certainly enrich the first world, the second world, the third world, and
the international banking system.
Everybody is scared
of them even when they do not have weapons of mass destruction nor oil
nor do they have a dictator to bring down. . . for the sake of
In short, it is a nation made of more than 300 million people -- as many
as the whole population of the United States of America, and all of them
are errant souls in limbo.
It is the nation of migrants and refugees.
Thousands of well-paid experts working in air-conditioned offices of
huge international institutions took the pain of classifying them by
categories: around 250 million migrants subdivided in emigrants and
immigrants, and some 50 million between refugees, displaced and asylum
Poverty and politics forced the first category to leave their homes and
Wars and politics obliged the second category to leave their homes and
MIGRANTS ARE WORTH 300 BILLION DOLARS A YEAR
But maybe it is not completely true that nobody cares about the migrants
-- some do. For example, ministers of finance and top managers of the
large banks are interested in the money they save and transfer.
According to recent estimates by international financial institutions,
migrants transfer to their countries of origin over 300,000,000 dollars
This amount is equivalent to the gains that the liberalisation of world
trade would generate: international development assistance, debt relief
as well as a portion of the external debts.
These estimates were issued in 2006 referring to a number that had
reached 191 million. They were also based on estimated increase of their
number to a bare 3 percent, a percentage that has been largely exceeded.
Individual donor countries and migrant recipients have been largely
benefiting from them -- their contributions go directly to the arches of
social security, health care, medical and social assistance,
unemployment funds, elderly people assistance, let alone pension funds.
On their side, countries of origin benefit as well from the money that
migrants regularly transfer to their homes in foreign currency.
Foreign currency that helps development and personal enrichments at the
time it is highly valuable when it comes to paying the bills of weapons
purchase from 'donor' countries.
Forty-two million people were forcibly uprooted by conflict and
persecution worldwide in 2008, according to a new report by the United
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
The international experts divided them in 15.2 million refugees, 823,000
asylum-seekers, and 26 million internally displaced people uprooted
within their own countries.
But the UN reminds that although the overall total of uprooted people
represents a decrease of about 700,000 over the previous year, new
displacements in 2009, not reflected in the report, have offset that
These 'new displacements' are taking place mostly in Pakistan, because
U.S. President Barack Obama thought it is best to fight better the
Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda by beginning to chase what he suspects are
Pakistani Taliban and Pakistani Al Qaeda, mainly in the Pakistani
north-western tribal areas and more heavily in Swat Valley.
Pushed by the U.S., the powerful Pakistani military -- which ruled the
country, openly, under former President, General Pervez Musharraf --
began on May 7 this very year a spectacular operation of 'cleaning' the
Swat Valley from the so-called Taliban and Al Qaeda.
The U.S. and often more specifically its Central Intelligence Agency
(CIA) using drone strikes, has been participating actively in the
The result has been so far over two million 'new displaced' in barely
one and a half months.
Specifically, Human Rights Watch reports that more than two million
civilians have fled their homes in the Swat valley and adjoining areas
of the Malakland since May 7.
Maybe one day a high-ranking U.S. officer will say that this has been a
"collateral" damage, to be aggregated to those caused by the
seven-year long military occupation and strikes by the United States and
its Western allies in Afghanistan. Maybe!
WHO ‘HOSTS’ THE REFUGEES AND WHO ‘GENERATES’ THEM?
The UNHCR says that 80 percent of the world's refugees are in developing
nations, as are the vast majority of internally displaced people.
It reports the major refugee-hosting countries in 2008 included
Pakistan, with 1.8 million (evidently without counting the 'new
displaced'); Syria, with 1.1 million (mostly Palestinians and Iraqis);
and Iran (mainly Afghans and Iraqis), with 980,000.
And the UN agency adds that thousands of civilians, unable or unwilling
to flee, remain in the conflict zone. The area is under indefinite
government curfew, which is lifted intermittently and briefly to allow
civilians to leave or obtain necessities.
Of the two million people internally displaced in Pakistan, 80 percent
are not in camps, but with poor host communities, according to UNHCR.
Then it comes to Iraq, a country that has been occupied and
systematically bombed by the United States of America for more than six
Say the United Nations: Iraq had 2.6 million internally displaced at the
end of 2008, with 1.4 million of them displaced in the past three years
The figure is to be added to nearly 2.5 million Iraqi refugees out of
The total amounts to 5.1 million people uprooted by the U.S. and Western
allies' announced desire to establish democracy, stability and peace in
If the number of wounded is added whose final fate is never reported,
and those of widows, orphans and elderly with nobody to assist them, the
total will easily jump to eight million war victims -- one third of
Iraqi population, or the equivalent in proportion to 100 million U.S.
WOMEN, CHILDREN. . .
Says the UNHCR: Women and girls constitute 47 percent of refugees and
asylum seekers, and 50 percent of all internally displaced people and
Children and the young under the age of 18 add up to 47 percent of all
refugees and asylum seekers, according to the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees.
… AND ABOUT FIVE MILLION PALESTINIANS, OFFICIALLY
According to the UN, of the global total of uprooted people, 25 million,
including 14.4 million internally displaced people and 10.5 million
refugees fall under the UNHCR mandate.
The other 4.7 million refugees are Palestinians under the UN Relief and
Mind you, these are the 4.7 million Palestinians that are under the UN.
There are many others, whose number has not been estimated by officials,
but there may be between two and three million Palestinians that are
scattered everywhere in the Diaspora.
The UNHCR’s conclusion could not be clearer: "As global conflicts
and the negative effects of global trends like urbanisation and climate
change increase, the humanitarian space is shrinking."
Neither could it be bitterer: "The amounts needed to rescue people
are less than what is needed to rescue banks."
Egyptian-born Spanish national, veteran journalist and writer, with
long professional experience in the Middle East, North of Africa and
Europe. Baher is associate global editor of InDepthnews.