The islands of the Philippines have been in the news for their responses to the recent Syrian refugee crisis. A chain of approximately 7,500 islands located in Southeastern Asia, these lands are home to a vast biodiversity and many active volcanoes. The country has been in the public eye lately for its increasing amount of violence related to the government’s war on drugs. Victims included an innocent five-year-old girl, prompting outrage online as to why the government isn’t doing more to protect its citizens.
Below are 10 facts recovered in relation to refugees in the Philipines:
- The Philippines has a long history of resettling displaced refugees into their country, stretching back to the 1940’s when Manuel Quezon, then Commonwealth president, personally welcomed 40 Jewish refugees to the country in light of growing dissent in Europe toward practicing Jews.
- UNHCR has been operating in the Philippines for over 30 years. They help refugees acquire citizenship in the Philippines as well as help process claims for asylum.
- As of August 2015, UNHCR Philippines’ offices have reached over 20,000 displaced persons with relief items.
- UNHCR Philippines had only received 8 percent of their requested funding to help refugees in the Philippines, thereby limiting the number of people they could successfully reach with relief items. Lack of funding for refugee support is a major issue.
- In 2012, the Philippines became the first Southeast Asian country to sign and become a state-party to the 1954 Convention on Stateless Persons. This 1954 Convention ensures that stateless people, defined as someone who is “not recognized as a national by any state under the operation of its law,” have a basic standard of human rights given to them by their host country. The 1954 Convention also established minimum standards for the treatment of stateless people, including, but not limited to, their rights of access to education, employment, housing, identity, travel documents and administrative assistance.
- Other notable refugee groups that were accepted as refugees in the Philippines throughout the years include Spanish Republicans during the Spanish Civil War, Chinese refugees when Imperial Japan was invading their country, White Russian refugees when the USSR rose to power and Indochinese refugees following the Vietnam War.
- In October 2015, the Filipino government seriously considered not allowing Australian-processed refugees to come to the Philippines to live.
- President Benigno Aquino mentioned that following the Vietnam War, the 400,000 Indochinese refugees that the Philippines accepted for “temporary” placement had, fifteen years on, neglected to leave their “temporary” home and had in fact become permanent residents.
- Aquino argued that as a nation, the Philippines couldn’t afford to offer permanent residency to refugees coming from Australia; 25 percent of the Philippines population already lives in poverty, and adding more disenfranchised refugees to the population would not immediately help.
- On the flip side, the recent Syrian refugee crisis prompted a quick response from the Philippines government, stating they would gladly be a host country for Syrian refugees awaiting permanent resettlement in another country.
The key word for the Philippines government’s current refugee policies seems to be host. Their priorities lie with establishing a stable economy and prosperous nation, in which 25 percent of the population does not have to live in poverty. Then and only then can the Philippines consider being more than a temporary host to refugees. Without economic stability and a lower poverty rate, the Philippines’ government cannot hope to provide for refugees much more than what the refugees escaped from.
– Bayley McComb