Was it a festive season?


The new year has arrived. Is it  a time to celebrate or to worry about the fate of people caught in the crossfire of civil wars ….asks Bikram Vohra

Students of Chongwen School pose to greet new year
Students of Chongwen School pose to greet new year

Even as the festive mood descends upon the world and the new calendar year rises on the horizon it is a sobering thought that there are now 60 million people in the world who have neither a home or a country to call their own. Much of the global festivity and celebrations for the change of year sit uncomfortably when you think that these people, a quarter of them children, face a chilly winter with no protection.

And the future is bleak because instead of dwindling, the numbers could increase as trouble spots in the present state seem to be spreading like a pox.

Of the million refugees who trekked their way to Europe as many as 3,700 died en route, mostly at sea when their rickety craft capsized. With every spasm of conflict and the resolutions for peace mere scraps of paper, these statistics will change rapidly and for the worse.

One of the deeper sadnesses that often gets ignored is the exploitation of the displaced and the organised crime that dogs them. Traffickers have made over $10 billion in charges for smuggling families into Europe, literally using their adversity to make a buck.

According to the International Organisation of Migration these unscrupulous gangs demand between $2000 and $6000 with no guarantee of safety or even the keeping of the promise. Whole families are at the mercy of these traffickers.

People smuggling has become so lucrative that all ethical considerations have been bypassed. Why bother kidnapping people and going through the police cordons and purchasing conduits when there are so many volunteers ready to pay their way.

And it is not just war zones. Areas hit by natural disasters like Nepal after the earthquake have all become valid targets. Regions hit by Ebola are also experiencing migrations. Civil strife in Africa, drought, floods, unemployment are all feeding the human stream of the wretched and the lost.

Although the present refugee influx has a majority of Syrians and Iraqis and Afghanis, there is a fear that the African continent could well be the next area for an influx of humanity on the move. With the overheads so low the smugglers can afford to lower charges and since they care less about life and comfort they just need to make a false promise and dispatch them by conveyances that spell death.

At this moment as the mercury falls, the need of the hour is to ensure the safety of those in Europe and those en route and also offer them insulation against the cold weather. This is a moral responsibility and the whole world should join in and contribute to keeping these families safe. Doing that would be a celebration in itself.