BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in: World: Africa
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Tuesday, 4 September, 2001, 18:04 GMT 19:04 UK
Refugee numbers 'expected to grow'
Sangatte asylum seekers
Refugees at Calais have caused a political storm in the UK
By the BBC's Barnaby Phillips in Durban

Refugee experts at the United Nations conference on racism in South Africa warn that the numbers of asylum-seekers, as well as the numbers of economic migrants, are about to increase all over the world.

Claude Moraes, a Member of the European Parliament who specialises in refugee issues, told BBC News Online that people looking to flee from unstable situations now find it easier to travel.

Refugees on the Tampa
Afghan refugee were not allowed to land in Australia
"There are methods of travel available now that didn't exist in the past to the same extent," he said.

Ilunga Ngandu, Regional Director of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees for Southern Africa, said the growth of global communications and culture made the idea of travel more attractive than before.

He said: "if you are sitting in a slum every day, you can still see through the media how richer people are leading their lives in other countries."

If the rich countries spent more money on poverty alleviation, and less on immigration policies, they might achieve results

UNHCR regional director Ilunga Ngandu
And if people cannot get to Europe or North American through legal channels, they will use other methods instead.

At the same time, experts warn that smugglers who specialise in trafficking asylum-seekers or economic migrants are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and increasingly willing to use dangerous methods.

All this suggests that the pressure on richer countries is bound to increase, regardless of the immigration policies they adopt.

And with more desperate people willing to take risks in order to travel, the dangers increase.

Iraqi Kurds
Iraqi Kurds in southern France
Mr Moraes added: "After all, smugglers are not there to help asylum-seekers, they are looking to make money."

He said that improved police intelligence and co-operation between countries was not enough by itself.

European countries needed to combine policies on burden-sharing so that when a crisis flared up in a certain region, various countries agreed to absorb refugees.

But ultimately it is a problem that might best be tackled at the point of departure.

Ilunga Ngandu of the UNHCR said: "If the rich countries spent more money on poverty alleviation, and less on immigration policies, they might achieve results."

Claude Moraes agreed: "Improving conditions in asylum-seeking countries will obviously take a long time but it would be a good start."

Glasgow racism rally
Asylum seekers in Glasgow have suffered from racism
Both men point out that contrary to popular belief in the developed world, it is the poorer countries which receive the greatest numbers of economic migrants and asylum-seekers.

People will tend to move first to the nearest relatively prosperous and stable country.

Mr Ngandu said: "For example, South Africa is a magnet for people from all over Africa, because they believe there are such great opportunities here."

The BBC's Barnaby Phillips
"This conference has gone horribly wrong"
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson
"Voices that were ignored before are being heard"
The BBC's Nick Childs
"There is a crisis effort underway now"
See also:

04 Sep 01 | Africa
US accused over summit walkout
03 Sep 01 | Africa
Racism summit turmoil: Reactions
03 Sep 01 | UK Politics
UK challenged over slavery
10 Aug 01 | Middle East
Anger over Zionism debate
03 Sep 01 | Europe
Europe split over slavery row
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Africa stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Africa stories