How many refugees are around the world and where will they go? As of the end of 2020, approximately 82.4 million people around the world were forcibly displaced due to many causes such as persecution, conflict and violence, according to the statistics released by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. Among these 82.4 million people, 26.4 million of them were refugees, and most of them lived in countries neighboring their own countries. Five countries — Turkey, Colombia, Pakistan, Uganda, and Germany — hosted at least 1.2 million refugees. The Chonnam Tribune brings perspectives from international and Korean students on the global refugee issue, and whether refugees should accepted or denied, which is one of the challenges the world has been facing for a long time.
What are your thoughts on global refugees?
Rute Ester (Brazil): The problem of refugees is a result and/or consequence of a political, natural, or economic crisis. No one dreams about being a refugee. It is a very complicated situation when refugees demand empathy from people in other countries. Without knowing the language of the foreign country to which they want to migrate to, and moreover, they have to adapt to a new culture and be seen as "someone who does not belong". I think refugees are not doing anything wrong or shameful, but instead they are revealing the problems in their own countries. The view of refugees varies from person to person in my country. I think I am lucky to have people around me who stand up for human rights and are very happy to accept refugees into our country, in ways that we even volunteer to help them. But you will definitely find people against them, especially right wing politicians and their followers.
Ezra Farner (United States): I believe that everyone has the right to live somewhere safe and seek asylum in other countries. I think we should work to assist refugees and make their transition into a new place easier rather than more difficult. The United States has a lot of anti-refugee sentiment and legislation. I think the population is more divided, but the laws make it very difficult for refugees to safely come to America.
What do you think is the basic motivation of governments accepting refugees?
Djally Ludnelle Linley (Gabon): I think the government’s motivation is to offer a better life to the refugees. Almost every refugee leaves their country seeking a better life and conditions than they experienced before. The sad thing is that they face hardship after they leave their countries. The moment they move to a new environment that they are not familiar with, they have to start learning a new language, norms, and other social behaviors to be accepted as part of that country. We also have to consider financial problems, job seeking, and other social discrimination, and holistically understand the situation of those refugees. So, in that case I think the government’s motivation could at least be derived from purely providing help.
Oh Dae-seung (South Korea): I think it is based on many elements especially political and economic ones. If a country accepts refugees into its borders, it is a strategic investment for the future. For example, after the home country of the refugees recovers from a crisis and maintains its steady state, and if we were able to shelter and accept its refugees in our system for some time, we could be able to claim more rationale to the country for further relationships and interchange. Additionally, I think that refugees are able to boost a country’s economy and workforce, so they will bring good results both externally and internally.
What is your opinion on accepting refugees into your country?
Ezra: I think the U.S. should accept more refugees rather than turning them away. The U.S. has the resources to support refugees, but they do not allow these resources with fairness. One of the barriers of letting refugees into our country is people being scared of foreigners taking what is “ours,” which is an idea that is perpetuated by the government in many ways. This creates a lot of fear of people coming into the country and messing up the American way of life. I would like to think the public will change their mindset so that they can accept refugees and understand their struggle. The younger generations already have more of this mindset, so as we grow older, we may be able to change the legislation too.
Dae-seung: The refugee debate has been a hot topic in South Korea since nearly 500 Yemeni refugees came to Jeju Island in 2018. Different approaches to refugee problems have their own pros and cons, but I think we should accept more refugees. Countless Korean refugee movements occurred as a result of the Korean War in 1950. If it was not for the help of other countries, sheltering and aiding our citizens, our situation might have gotten worse. South Korea recovered and developed into a strong country, and I think now it is our turn to return the favor to the world.
How do you think the world should counter a global refugee crisis?
Djally: Refugees are those who escaped from dangers and threats. As long as there are conflicts in the world, there will be refugees. We have to remember that they are also people just like us, and we have to sympathize with them and look it things from their perspective. If this social bond is able to be maintained, I think we can find a solution for the refugee problem based on good will.
Rute: I believe that the world is becoming more interdependent and globalized, which leads to people of different ethnicities and races living together. It is important to understand that actions of one person do not speak on behalf of all, because those assumptions can lead to misinformation and stereotypes. Moving forward, the public opinion can be more accepting of our differences, but I would like to say that it will still be hard to maintain and confirm our optimism.
The 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol were legislated to respect and protect the rights of refugees. The world’s refugee situation, however, continues to deteriorate. The number of refugees around the world has doubled since 2015. More people have been concerned about refugee-related problems worldwide and governments have been seeking solutions to protect them. In the interview with this magazine, although the reasons for their opinions were different, four students all said that countries have a responsibility to accept refugees and provide assistance so that they can resettle in a specific country. Refugees are in need of protection, and the world should guaranteed basic human rights. While refugee issues are often closely tied to politics and interests between countries across the world, we must remember that they are no different from us, and only going through hard times.
Rute Ester, Global Korea Scholarship Student, Language Education Center, Brazil
Ezra Farner, Senior, Department of Communication, Exchange Student, USA
Djally Ludnelle Linley, Junior, Department of Communication, Gabon
Oh Dae-seung, Freshman, Department of Animal Science, South Korea
By Jo Beom-seo, Student Editor