Former UN human rights worker Kilian Kleinschmidt pointed out in a recent interview that for many people around the world, a stay in a refugee camp could last an entire lifetime.
"These are the cities of tomorrow, The average stay today in a camp is 17 years. That's a generation. In the Middle East, we were building camps: storage facilities for people. But the refugees were building a city. I mean what's the difference between someone in Philly and somebody in a refugee city? We have to get away from the concept that, because you have that status – migrant, refugee, martian, alien, whatever – you're not allowed to be like everybody else."he told Dezeen.
"I think we have reached the dead end almost where the humanitarian agencies cannot cope with the crisis. We're doing humanitarian aid as we did 70 years ago after the second world war. Nothing has changed," he added.
Kleinschmidt's statements were no exaggeration either, according to the US State Department's own report, "People in protracted refugee situations are often deprived of freedom of movement, access to land, and legal employment. UNHCR estimates that the average length of major protracted refugee situations has increased from 9 years in 1993 to 17 years at the end of 2003. Two-thirds of the global refugee population – over 10 million refugees – live in protracted refugee situations in 30 countries."
It seems that the vast majority of people who attempt to cross government borders to flee from war and oppression are actually held as prisoners for years at a time, and in many cases for the rest of their lives. Sadly, refugee situations have now become more frequent and widespread, due to countless global conflicts, many of which involve the US and NATO.
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Instead of holding refugees as prisoners, Kleinschmidt suggested in the interview that the people simply be able to move into unowned areas and allow them to establish their own community or integrate with existing communities.
"Many places in Europe are totally deserted because the people have moved to other places. You could put in a new population, set up opportunities to develop and trade and work. You could see them as special development zones which are actually used as a trigger for an otherwise impoverished neglected area," Kleinschmidt said.
Kleinschmidt pointed out that just because someone is a refugee or they are poor does not mean that they are incapable and unskilled workers.
"That whole concept that you can connect a poor person with something that belongs to the 21st century is very alien to even most aid agencies. Intelligence services and so on from government think 'my god, these are just refugees, so why should they be able to do 3D-printing? Why should they be working on robotics?' The idea is that if you're poor, it's all only about survival. We have to get away from the concept that, because you have that status – migrant, refugee, martian, alien, whatever – you're not allowed to be like everybody else," he said.
Hopefully, people are able to move more freely in the future and will not be trapped in refugee camps for their entire lives. Hopefully, refugee camps do not become "the cities of tomorrow," but if the world does not give up on war then it is a very real possibility that things could turn out that way.
Kleinschmidt worked for the UN for over 25 years but then quit because he felt that he was not able to make a positive change while working within the organization, and he felt that he could get more done independently.
John Vibes is an author and researcher who organizes a number of large events including the Free Your Mind Conference. He also has a publishing company where he offers a censorship free platform for both fiction and non-fiction writers. You can contact him and stay connected to his work at his Facebook page. You can purchase his books, or get your own book published at his website www.JohnVibes.com.