Tallying trauma

by Marie Murray

The MENA region has seen a massive flows of migration due to both internal and external displacement over the past century, the last four years of which are depicted here. In the selection of countries on the map, the numbers show refugee or asylum-seeking populations including those that have been displaced well before 2021 as well as the more recently displaced. The UNHCR reports that the global percentage of refugees who flee to neighboring countries is around 70 percent, but can be far higher, as in the case of Syria where over 85 percent of displaced Syrians have sought shelter in nearby countries. What we have, by one interpretation, is a map of arbitrarily drawn and often highly politicized nation-state borders that seemingly by design entail the migrations or forced movements of their populations. 

Although the Oxford dictionary defines a refugee as someone who is forced to flee to another region or country to seek shelter, the term also has its own legal, political, and technical meanings that make data collection on refugees a slippery project. In one example of this, the numbers marked with an asterisk on the map refer only to refugees who are officially accounted for by either the UNHCR, UNWRA, or a government body that has its own refugee registration process. Not only do the criterion for determining who is a refugee differ by organization or government body, but in some cases these entities have limited scope or do not exist at all. 

By any quantification, loose or precise, it is clear that migratory trends and forced displacements are only increasing. The most well laid out care and management strategies (which are few and far between) cannot possibly amend the harms caused by forced displacement events. Looking at a map of a region with exceptionally high populations of displaced peoples begs the question not only of how to properly address the problem, but, more importantly, how to prevent it in the first place. There are many state powers far and wide with little proximity to the region who can decisively be factored among those accountable for aiding and abetting this crisis.

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Marie Murray

Marie Murray is a Beirut-based editor, writer and author

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