A New Approach To The Refugee Crisis

Friday, 02 December 2016 1494 Views 1 Comments
A New Approach To The Refugee Crisis

The rapid increase of refugees fleeing from war-torn areas is causing a lot of strain to host countries. According to UNHCR, an unprecedented 65.3 million people around the world have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 21.3 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18. Further, nearly 34,000 people are being displaced every day as a result of conflict or persecution. This has, in turn, caused overutilization on the donated and available resources from the host countries. The refugees end up lacking the basic human needs such as food and water, and live in a deplorable state. There is, therefore, an urgent need for a global shift on how we have been addressing the issue of refugees before it gets out of control.

Jim Yong Kim, president of the world bank group explained in an interview, the new strategy, the World Bank is adopting to deal with refugees. He explained that in the long term, The World Bank will be expanding its work in fragile and conflict-affected areas to address the drivers of conflict and create more stable societies that provide opportunities for all, so that people will not need to flee, risking their lives in the first place.

Five historical global meetings have been held in 2016, each in their own way, seeking to address the weakness in our systems of responding to refugees. Some agendas discussed included:

  • Opportunities for engaging the private sector in new ways to respond to refugees
  • An emphasis on concrete action rather than abstract commitment
  • The need to reinvigorate refugees and relieve some of the burdens of host communities
  • The need for a paradigm shift from seeing refugees as a temporary emergency to incorporating them in long-term plans
  • Recognizing the potential of “mini-multilateral” initiatives  in which coalitions of willing states come together, outside of the UN, to agree on common approaches to refugees and migrants

As the saying goes, if life gives you lemons, make lemonade. This should however not be taken as celebrating the misfortunes of refugees. I sympathize with their situation as every single refugee experiences unimaginable suffering and are forced to flee their homes. On the contrary, it is trying to make lemonade out of the situation. It is trying to look at the positive aspect, of the refugee crisis.  In the words of President Obama, “I think we have to, not look at refugees as a problem, but as an opportunity”.

Most refugees for starters, have no source of income and depend entirely on international aid. Generally, refugees are not allowed to work within the countries hosting them. If refugees were allowed to work, the host country will benefit in many ways. One, they can render services which are needed in the host community, thus expanding the economy. Secondly, their income can be minimally-taxable, thus providing a source of revenue to that country. Thirdly, it will reduce the strain of depending entirely on aid, allowing refugees to be self-reliant.


If refugees cannot work and are totally dependent on international aid, and over time, that aid is not enough, over time this could be problematic. In the past, there was a knee-jerk reaction of putting refugees in camps in remote areas and providing parallel services, so the local services are not benefiting from refugee presence. But if money from the international community that would normally go into a parallel system can instead be put into an existing system for both refugees and the locals, this could be to everyone’s advantage- both the host communities and the refugees.

Paul Spiegel (Director of Centre for Refugee and Disaster response)

The importance of education, on the other hand, can never be overemphasized. There is a reason why old wise men say education is the backbone of life.  Without education, the future of a refugee child is in doubt. Education gives new and a variety of opportunities to refugee children, to pursue alternative sources of income.

Education also keeps the refugee child active and occupied, reducing the chances of them being radicalized or working for gains. This will reduce the security threat refugee camps pose in the host countries. Kenya is one of the host countries experiencing terror attacks due to the radicalization of a few child refugees in Dadaab Refugee camp. Remember, an idle mind is the devil’s workshop.

Research from GEM Report confirmed that better-educated societies are less likely to face instability, tensions and weak governance that can drive conflict and displacement in the first place.

Every child in the world has the right to a quality education. But the case is even more compelling for child refugees. Education gives them the security and normalcy that can help them cope with the chaos in the short run, and it can reverse a lifelong, downward spiral of illiteracy, poverty, and powerlessness.

Refugees Deeply

Investors should also tap into the entrepreneurship opportunities among the refugees. They should focus on how to harness the energy and creativity of refugee populations. This will be a source of income to both the refugees as well as the investors. It will also create development of host communities and refugees alike.

We need to talk more about refugee crisis, and come up with ways of remedying or mitigating the current state. I am reminded of a Swahili proverb, usipoziba ufa, utajenga ukuta, which translates to: if you do not repair the crack on a wall, you will have to build a new wall. This calls on us to try and remedy the situation before it gets out of control.

Lastly, vote for an inspirational leader in the next elections. Remember a leader represents us and what we stand for. Leaders have a responsibility of making sure they don’t fuel or fan any violence or terror. Change begins with us, as individuals. If we can’t be a part of the solution, then we are definitely a part of the problem.


Ochollah Judy

Kenya Judy is a Lawyer by profession passionate about protecting the rights of the child. She founded and runs an organisation called Sauti ya Mtoto which aims at creating a world in which children particularly, vulnerable children, can grown into adulthood and reach their maximum potential

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