Geography | Citizenship

Rich countries turn their backs on outcasts

Should wealthy nations be forced to accept refugees? On World Refugee Day today, shocking new research shows that the most generous countries are among the poorest on Earth. One photo saved Mustafa's life. A photographer took this image of him with his father in a refugee camp in Turkey. They had fled the war in Syria. The picture won the Siena International Photo Award and helped bring them to Italy. There are 100 million forcibly displaced people in the world. Most live in poor countries. The number of externally displaced people doubled in the last decade. People fled conflict in Afghanistan, South Sudan and Syria. The war in Ukraine shows how quickly things can change. Last year, Poland had very few refugees. Now it has 1.2 million. Japan is the world's third-richest country but has only accepted 1,394 refugees in 10 years. So is it time wealthy nations let in more refugees? The idea is not popular with anti-immigration politicians. If we make it easier for people to claim asylum, they argue, economic migrants will take advantage. UK deputy prime minister Dominic Raab says it is better to help refugees nearer their home country, so they can "come back in the future".  But in Lebanon, 83% of Syrian refugees live in extreme poverty. Kutupalong in Bangladesh is the world's largest refugee camp, home to 600,000 Rohingya from Myanmar. "I am a refugee," says Alf Dubs. "The UK saved my life." In 1939, he fled the Nazis on the Kindertransport. He wants "the UK to live up to its tradition by giving hope to refugee children".  People overestimate the number of refugees in the UK. The Migration Observatory found people thought asylum seekers were the most common migrant. In reality, they are the smallest group. "We are coming, thank you," said Mustafa as he left Turkey. "We love Italy." His father lost a leg and nerve gas poisoned his mother. A picture saved his life, but should it take a photo to change our minds? Should wealthy nations be forced to accept refugees? Safe haven Yes: All countries must help people fleeing their homes. But the burden must be fair. Currently, a few nations take responsibility for most of the world's refugees. Wealthier states should and can step up.

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