World Refugee Day

June 20th was the International Red Cross ‘World Refugee Day’. Not that we have anything at all to celebrate.

Refugee Numbers

In my January article (Population Growth, Climate Change and Refugees) I quoted the UN estimate of 51 million refugees worldwide. People looking for a home. The UN is now quoting a figure of 60 Million; this amounts to a growth of approximately 50 000 per day over the past six months, and the growth continues unabated. At this rate it won’t be long before the figure reaches 100 Million.

Western (developed world) Response

The response of the developed world has not in any way succeeded in stemming the flow of refugees, and the policies being considered are, in the long term, likely to be fruitless –Some examples-:

  • The European Union is having difficulty in persuading its members to formally accept 40 000 ‘official’ refugees per annum. As one can see, from the refugee numbers quoted, it’s almost as if they live in another world.

  • There are thousands of people flooding into Europe. It is difficult to really understand the figures but there are at least 40 000 people a month, crossing the Mediterranean to Italy or Greece, with every intention of trying to move further north.

  • Hungary is contemplating building a huge fence on its border with Serbia.

  • Australia has ‘stopped the boats’. For how long we don’t know.

  • The United States is reinforcing its border with Mexico and is trying to send illegals back home.

  • The Japanese response to the crisis is as if it merely doesn’t exist; they do not accept refugees in any numbers. This is despite the fact that the Japanese population is actually declining and will continue to do so. The Japanese population is already about one million lower than its peak in 2010 of 128 million and is projected to decline to about 65 Million by the end of the century.


Why the sudden increase in Refugees?

Much of the increase is of course due to the conflicts in the Middle-East and Afghanistan. It seems unlikely that any of these conflicts will be resolved soon, so the number of refugees from this source will continue to grow.

There are two other reasons for the flood of refugees that are threatening to encompass the developed world:

  • The huge disparity in wealth between the first and third worlds. To illustrate, listed below are GDP per capita (PPP basis. Ref IMF/CIA) of selected countries:

Developed world:

Ø  United States $ 55 000

Ø  EU                     $ 38 000

Ø  Great Britain    $ 38 000

Ø  Japan                 $ 37 000


Various African Countries:

Ø  Gabon               $ 22 000

Ø  Botswana         $ 16 000

Ø  South Africa     $ 13 000

Ø  Nigeria              $    6 000   

Ø  Kenya                 $   3 000

Ø  Zimbabwe         $   2 000

Ø  Dem. Rep of

Congo                 $       700

Some South American Countries:

Ø  Argentina           $  22 000

Ø  Mexico                $  18 000

Ø  Brazil                   $   16 000

Ø  Peru                     $   12 000

Ø  El Salvador          $     8 000


Ø  Malaysia                $  25 000

Ø  Thailand                 $  14 000

Ø  China                       $  13 000

Ø  Indonesia                $ 11 000

Ø  India                         $   6 000


With the growth and availability of the internet and worldwide broadcasts, there is an increasing awareness in the third world of the apparent wealth in the first world.

  •  The massive and ongoing population growth, mainly in the third world.

Suffice to say that the UN predicts the world’s population will grow from seven billion today to about nine billion by 2050, i.e. a growth of some two billion, almost all of which will come from African, Asian and South American countries, some of whom are mentioned above.

What has caused this growth? Mainly access to Western Medicine.

In many cultures, particularly in Africa, parts of Asia and South America there is a tradition for families to have as many children as possible. This is partly because of previously high infant mortality rates and the need for people to have children to support them in old age. Much of this need has disappeared but the practice continues.

Many people were surprised and delighted with Pope Francis’ pronouncements on Climate Change. What is clearly missing from this encyclical is the place that population growth has played and will continue to play in influencing warming world temperatures. World population has grown from about 2 billion before the Second World War to 7 billion today- nobody can continue to pretend that this trend will not have had a significant effect on greenhouse gas emissions and therefore increasing world temperatures.

Some might say that the plight the third world finds itself in is entirely their fault and point to corruption, vicious self-serving dictators and very poor governance as being a primary cause of the problem. There is some validity in this argument, but as far as the developed world is concerned if we just continue to say the problem has nothing to do with us and wish the problem would go away, we are headed for a very nasty fall.



There is nothing the developed world is doing that will have the slightest effect on the growing number of refugees wanting to move to a developed country for any number of reasons.

People smugglers are being blamed for the crisis. Whilst to a man people smugglers should all be firmly locked up somewhere, we, in our safe first world cocoon can only blame ourselves for allowing the situation to arise.

What is the solution?

  • Stop the boats. In the long run this will be fruitless. The problem is being attacked from the wrong end. By the time people are on a boat they have already made the decision to move- it’s too late.

  • A  longer term solution:

    • For the developed world to cooperatively persuade third world to curb their growth in populations and then provide the funds to implement such a programme. Maybe some help could be garnered from the Chinese, who have successfully reduced their own population growth to zero, and whose population will start to reduce in years to come.

    • The developed world provide something like $150 Billion per annum in aid. Even if all these funds are used for population growth control, it is unlikely to be enough.

    • As well as population growth programmes there should be a focus on education, especially of women. Populations with a high literacy rate among their female populations have a lower birth rate (e.g. The Indian State of Kerala).

    • Additionally there needs to be regional solutions. If one takes the Asia pacific region as an example, the media has assailed us all with the plight of the Rohingya people of Burma. It is absolutely in Australia’s interests that a regional refugee solution be agreed with its Asean partners (Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, The Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos). It is in the interests of the wealthier countries in the region to bear the majority of the funding for this (Including Australia).

    • Additional aid will result in additional temptations for corruption. In its own best interests the developed world already needs a solution to tackle corruption relating to their aid programmes. If they were serious about really providing aid for development rather than keeping individual countries inside the tent as a part of a foreign policy programme then a solution will be found.

Guy Hallowes