The year 2016 is ticking away, but the pain of the ongoing refugee crisis still lingers in the hearts of so many people. Not long ago, two Libyan refugee boats sank shortly after setting sail in the Mediterranean Sea, killing more than 240. By mid-November, about 5,000 refugees had lost their lives this year while attempting to cross the Mediterranean for Europe, matching the full-year casualties recorded in 2015. The voyages on the Mediterranean for asylum in Europe have been dangerous and life-threatening for the refugees. With a surge in incoming refugees, Europe is also confronted with grave challenges in terms of politics and security.
In 2015, about 1 million refugees flocked to Europe to escape the endless turmoil in the Middle East, triggering the gravest refugee crisis since World War II. As 2017 nears, Europe is still deeply mired in the refugee crisis. Coupled with the surging rightest populist forces, they would likely add uncertainty to the elections in France, Germany and the Netherlands next year. We need to find answers to these questions: How could we put an end to this ever-lasting refugee tragedy? And how could we prevent any recurrence of similar disasters in the future?
War displaces people and breeds refugee crises. For the Middle East, which has long been plagued by continuing violence and conflicts, it is urgent to end the wars. The long-lasting turmoil and violence － a cruel reality in Afghanistan, Iraq, South Sudan and Libya － are a reminder to us all: The road to peace is bumpy and difficult and it is equally difficult to safeguard post-war orders. Despite of challenges and difficulties, we are committed and obliged to achieve these goals.
The reality has taught the international community a lesson about what is urgent. It is not how to preach democracy, but how to realize and safeguard peace, and rebuild homes for refugees. If we fail to attach enough importance to post-war reconstruction and to provide adequate financial support and basic conditions for the survival of local residents, or fail to let the people live decent lives in peace, violence and conflicts would occur again.
The Syrian crisis should be brought to an end as early as possible, and this is a consensus of the international community. According to statistics from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the number of registered Syrian refugees had reached 5 million by the end of October. A political settlement to the Syrian issue is fundamental to curbing the exodus of refugees into Europe and preventing the refugee crisis from deteriorating. After intensive bargaining for another year in 2016, United Nations Security Council members still remain divided on how to handle Syria, and some countries, which may have important influence in solving the crisis, have failed to show their resolve in ending the devastating war.
2016 should have become a milestone year in the global efforts in addressing the refugee issue. In September, world leaders gathered at the headquarters of the United Nations to discuss the refugee and migrant issue, and adopted the Declaration for Refugees and Migrants on Sept 19, which outlined a series of promises with regard to concerted actions to address the issue of refugees and migrants.
Countries have put forward proposals and recommendations for coping with the refugee crisis, but there is still a long way to go for implementation. European countries failed to unite on the issue, and their plans in response to the waves of refugees were not enough to solve the practical problems. Britain is one of the countries that militarily intervened in Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, by the end of July, however, it had accepted about 168,000 refugees, far below the expectations of the international community. The United States is an irreplaceable force in safeguarding and promoting world peace and security. By the end of October, the Obama administration had granted entry permits to 13,210 Syrian refugees — a surge of 675% compared with the previous year. President-elect Donald Trump also has indicated that his administration will accept the United Nation’s quota for Syrian refugee settlement and will accept 200,000 refugees from Syria.
The issue of refugees calls for international cooperation, and 2017 will be a critical year for the international community to make a concerted effort. This writer believes that the fundamental solution to the refugee issue is to stop violent conflicts and wars. First, all parties must abide by the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, and work together to settle disputes and conflicts through political channels, realize regional stability and reduce the number of refugees and the homeless displaced by wars and turmoil. This should be the foundation for a permanent settlement of the refugee issue.
Second, the international community should try to implement the Declaration for Refugees and Migrants as early as possible, and should fully tap the role for coordination of such institutions as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in exploring, making and implementing the action plans for the settlement of the issue. Third, the emergency-response capability in dealing with the refugee crisis should be improved, so that new “war-torn refugees” who become homeless amid the anti-terror war could be properly accepted and settled, and those developing countries that have been accepting refugees could get necessary help to solve their practical problems and difficulties. And also, the labor market of the refugee-taking nations must be opened, and policies relating to religions and cultures must be based on tolerance so that refugees from different ethnic groups and of different religious beliefs could easily integrate into the local communities.
In the face of the biggest refugee crisis since World War II, no country can be spared or stay immune. In 2016, China actively explored three-party cooperation on the refugee issue with relevant international organizations and developing nations, and in addition to the current scale of aids to some countries in the Middle East, provided special humanitarian assistance to relevant countries and international organizations. China and the United States, as two of the permanent members of the UN Security Council, are committed to safeguarding world peace and promoting common development. In such fields as pushing forward the political settlement of the Syrian issue, protecting refugees, mitigating the global refugee crisis and promoting the peace process for the Middle East, China and the US share common goals and should cooperate well.