Since the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011 there has been an unprecedented increase in the number of refugees. By the end of 2016 a record 65 million people will be refugees, forced from their homes largely because of civil war or Islamic terrorism. More than half these refugees come from just three countries; Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia. In all these of these nations Islamic terrorism is the key cause of violence, in addition to corruption, bad government or no government at all. The civil war in Syria and Islamic terrorism in Iraq and Syria account for most of the increases since 2014. There are also invasions and civil war in Ukraine and South Sudan. There are nearly as many Afghan refugees, some of them displaced since the Russians chased them out in the 1980s. For a long time Pakistan carried the heaviest refugee burden in the world, but since the Syrian Civil War broke out in 2011 the worst hit countries (in terms of the refugee load per million locals) has been Lebanon and Jordan. There are growing problems caring for all these refugees, especially in obtaining the money needed to pay for it. Despite increases in spending on humanitarian aid worldwide (more than doubling since 2012) it is never enough. That aid is running at over $50 billion a year now with about 75 percent contributed by governments while the rest comes from foundations, corporations and individuals.
The aid goes to over 100 million people, and more than half of them are refugees from conflicts. The aid organizations (mainly the UN) actually sought much more money than they received but tends to receive less than 70 percent of what is requested. Despite more contributions coming in, fund raisers are finding it ever more difficult to obtain donations. That is apparently because the donors are discouraged by the growing corruption and mismanagement in the international relief efforts. One of the major forms of corruption is theft. This is done either by enrolling (usually for a fee) people who are not really refugees but who note that the refugees often live better than the locals. Another popular scam is stealing refugee aid (like food and building supplies) and selling it to locals. The customers often include local gangsters or Islamic terrorists. In many cases these criminals organize the theft in the first place.
The corruption is not the only bad news that discourages donors, there’s also the fact that while most of the refugees are Moslem, wealthy Moslem states (especially those in the Persian Gulf) refuse to take in refugees. Worse yet Middle Eastern states have always refused to absorb refugees. For example, the wealthiest Moslem states (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain) refuse to accept any Syrian (or any others) refugees. These countries use force to keep any illegal migrants out and these refugees know better than to even try. This is nothing new and, at best, foreigners are tolerated as stateless persons in these nations. One example of this is more than 100,000 stateless nomads in Kuwait. Called the bedoon, these people were not considered Kuwaitis in 1962 (when Kuwait became independent) because the nomads came and went as they pleased and did not seem interested. But as the oil wealth grew so did the desire of Bedoon to become citizens. At that point Kuwait decided it was not making anyone else citizens. In Syria and Iraq there have long been government attempts to punish rebellious Kurds by declaring some of them not citizens. That has not worked out well. In general this intolerance to migrants is an ancient tradition in Middle Eastern nations. It used to be so everywhere but first the United States (centuries ago) and then many other Western nations became more accepting.
During the recent refugee crises the wealthy Arab countries cited “security concerns” (not long standing tradition) for their refusal. There is some truth to that as many Moslem nations have had serious problems in the past with Moslem refugees that were given sanctuary, but not citizenship. Most of these were Palestinians and the West was allowed to pay (via the UN) for the support of these refugees. But in the 1970s and 80s Jordan and Lebanon suffered armed insurrections by the Palestinians they hosted. Jordan expelled over 20,000 Palestinians as a result and Lebanon continues to expel disloyal and rebellious Palestinians. After the 1990 Iraqi invasion and occupation of Kuwait the Kuwaitis were shocked to find that many of the 400,000 Palestinians they hosted supported the Iraqis. Worse the Palestinian leadership was quite open about such support. As a result over 90 percent of these Palestinians were expelled from Kuwait. There was a similar situation throughout Arabia and many Palestinians were forced to flee. Yemenis also supported Saddam taking Kuwait and over a million were expelled from Saudi Arabia and other Arab oil states.
Arab support of the Palestinians has been cynical and exploitative from the beginning (in 1948). Arab countries have not allowed Palestinian refugees to settle as citizens, but have insisted they stay in refugee camps but were eventually allowed, informally, to take jobs and start businesses. More Palestinian refugees have been settled in Europe and North America than in Arab countries. This treatment by fellow Arabs adds to the Palestinian despair, and willingness to back suicidal violence against Israelis and anyone they deem not sufficiently supportive. This contributed to the Palestinian tendency to turn against their host countries.
European countries have been more welcoming but also find, according to regular opinion surveys, a small (less than one percent) of their Moslem residents want to participate in or directly support the use Islamic terrorism against the “enemies of Islam”. This includes many fellow Moslems as well as the West in general (including their host country). Worse some 10-20 percent of these Moslems in the West approve of Islamic terrorism in general. It got worse with the appearance of the Internet and then ISIL because then it was discovered that the first generation of Moslems born in the West were even more fond of Islamic terrorism than their parents.
Another problem is that so many Islamic terrorists who show up in the West spent years as refugees being fed and cared for by Western donations and were then accepted as legal immigrants. This has been very noticeable among the Syria refugees, who make up about a quarter of the worldwide refugee population. Many Western nations, however, will absorb refugees and that has led to the growth of people smuggling, which is currently bringing in over a billion dollars a year to Western and local (in the countries generating the most refugees) criminal gangs who saw an opportunity. The growing demand for the expensive (thousands of dollars per refugee) smugglers is the fact that it is a good investment for the refugee. That’s because while living in a refugee camp costs the UN (or whoever is running it) less than $2,000 a year per refugee, Western nations spend a lot more (often over $10,000 a year per person) on legal refugees they admit.
The favorite destinations are the countries that are better at absorbing migrants (the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand). These nations also have fewer pro-terrorism Moslem residents but all have some. The problem is that Islam, alone among major world religions, is based on a theology that encourages aggressive, even violent, action to make new converts and equally violent measures to prevent Moslems from adopting another religion. There is also an institutionalized paranoia based on the idea that Islam is constantly under attack and good Moslems must fight this threat. Most Moslems see all these calls to violence and constant war as absurd, but a few percent of the 1.5 billion Moslems believe and many of those are motivated enough to die for the cause. Most Moslems understand that this culture of religiously justified violence is wrong and counterproductive but the Islamic scripture calling for is still considered a basic belief and there are still believers willing to die for it. Even after the current Islamic terrorists are defeated, like all the earlier efforts, there will still be believers in righteous Islamic violence. This is an issue that a growing number of Moslems are recognizing as a fundamental problem but so far no one has a solution.
Religion aside there continues to be a problem with the large (and growing) number of refugees who prefer to remain refugees. Decades of monitoring refugees shows that, on average, people spend 17 years as refugees once they are first driven from their homes. The UN is under pressure to do something about the post-World War II tendency to allow displaced people to remain refugees for decades, instead of persuading host countries to just absorb them. Absorption (by the country refugees ended up in) is how refugees were handled for thousands of years, and how Europe and China handled over ten million refugees after World War II. Then again, until quite recently it was also quite common for large numbers of unwanted refugees to simply be killed or left to starve.
The more recent practice of maintaining refugees for decades has led to more terrorism and violence in general. The treatment of the Palestinian refugees is the most vivid example of this policy. The equal number of Jewish refugees expelled from Arab countries in the late 1950s was absorbed into Israel and Western nations and were never a problem. The Arab nations refused to absorb the Palestinians and insisted they remain refugees, which millions do until the present. This has caused or contributed to several civil wars and terror campaigns and the deaths of thousands of people.
The UN has had a difficult time getting countries, especially those outside the West, to absorb refugees. It’s mainly an economic, cultural and political thing that is at least made tolerable by all those UN refugee camps (paid for by Western nations). That sort of solution does not work in the long term and simply creates more problems.