Tens of thousands of Sudanese refugees have been pouring into neighboring countries in the past months following the breakout of an armed conflict in Sudan, straining the host countries’ meager resources and raising worries about their future struggles for survival.
As Tuesday marks the World Refugee Day, the predicament of Sudanese refugees, along with millions of other forcibly displaced in the Middle East and elsewhere, has highlighted the urgency to help them meet their pressing needs and address the root causes of their displacement.
The number of displaced people worldwide has reached a record of 110 million, driven by the newly erupted conflicts in Ukraine and Sudan, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said earlier this month.
In the Middle East, the huge numbers of refugees have created huge economic and social burdens on the host countries, the majority of which are developing countries with their own economic and social problems, said Adnan Bourji, director of the Lebanese National Center for Studies.
Taking Lebanon for example, the country with a population of about 5.5 million, is hosting about 1.5 million Syrian refugees, who fled the 12-year civil war that has plagued Syria. In a 2021 report, the UNHCR said nine out of 10 Syrian refugees live in extreme poverty in Lebanon, which has been deeply mired in a financial crisis since August 2019.
The cost of hosting millions of Syrian refugees has prompted the Lebanese government to repeatedly call for the refugees’ rapid return to their home country.
Last week, Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib warned of “an increasing risk of tension and violence” between the Lebanese and the Syrian refugees who now compete for jobs.
Türkiye, which has a long border with Syria, hosts about 3.6 million Syrian refugees because of the civil war in Syria, accounting for over 60 percent of the total Syrian refugee population in the world.
The resentment among hosting Turkish communities has been growing against the Syrian refugees, as they add another huge economic burden on the country struggling with an economic crisis in the past years.
Egypt, which is already struggling with financial difficulties caused by a shortage of U.S. dollars, has received more than 210,000 Sudanese refugees fleeing the armed conflict that erupted between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces on April 15, according to the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In the Egyptian capital of Cairo, the UNHCR found out that many new arrivals in the Sudanese communities are struggling to meet their basic needs, including housing and food. The housing rent has a fourfold increase since April.
“It is not easy to count the number of negative effects of forced displacement on the displaced people, his country and the country that is hosting them,” said Bourji.
Of the total refugees who need international protection, about half of them came from three war-ravaged countries: Syria, Ukraine and Afghanistan, making wars and conflicts the biggest cause of their displacement.
“We are in a very polarized world, where international tensions play out all the way into humanitarian issues,” said UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi earlier this month.
His view was echoed by Syrian political expert Mohammad al-Omari, who blamed the sanctions and military interventions of some Western countries, coupled with their economic sanctions and siege, for forcing people to flee their own countries to become refugees.
“Whether through wars or sanctions, Western policies create a difficult humanitarian situation and push people to become refugees elsewhere,” said al-Omari.
In Syria, the United States occupies the oil-rich areas, stealing the oil and even deliberately destroying the agricultural and industrial foundation of the country, said Bourji.
Meanwhile, its sanctions on Syria have greatly impeded the country’s reconstruction, making the return of the displaced Syrians all the more difficult.
Hussam al-Dajani, a Gaza Strip-based Palestinian political expert, said the cost of wars is more refugees in all parts of the globe, and stopping them is an obligation the U.S.-led West should not shun way from.