People take part in a prayer and protest organized by the Ethiopian organization Welcoming Spaces and U.S. refugee organizations on the park near the White House in Washington, D.C., Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. Ethiopian refugees held a prayer and protest outside the White House urging President Donald Trump to declare a state of emergency in the West African nation of Ethiopia in an attempt to curb the death camps of the so-called “ethnic cleansing” of Ethiopian migrants in the western part of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Last week, the Canadian government stated that it welcomed 31,000 refugees in its 2017-18 fiscal year – a number that could be used as an example to other governments. The fact that the number of immigrants approved by Canada in 2016-17 was over 40,000 more than the number from 2015-16 leads many to ask the question: Why didn’t Canada do more when they had the opportunity?
Ethiopia is experiencing a humanitarian crisis. Refugees from the country are leaving at a frenetic pace. But they have no choice but to leave, as many of them know they have no other future in their home country. The majority of Ethiopia’s refugees are seeking to be resettled to the United States, particularly in California and the Texas areas, and these refugees are also fleeing from neighboring countries like Sudan and Somalia.
But President Donald Trump’s own secretary of homeland security, Kirstjen Nielsen, refused to comment on the refugee crisis in Ethiopia at a meeting with congressional leaders last week.
According to data collected by International Organization for Migration, Ethiopia hosted 3.3 million refugees at the end of 2016, with 1.6 million of them displaced within their own country. Refugees from Eritrea accounted for 800,000 of the total, accounting for close to two-thirds of the refugees in Ethiopia.
The number of refugees resettled in the United States from 2017 to the end of September 2018 was 8,544, which is 1,223 less than the number of refugees from the same period of the previous year.
But there was another reason why Canada did not act to ease the crisis, and this has to do with geography. Last week, CNN reported that some of the refugees from Eritrea were targeting U.S. capital Washington in their attempts to evade the immigration control procedures and move to the United States.
Therefore, why is this happening when Canada could act without violating the U.S.’s laws? Although Canada does not have borders with the United States, the countries share a common ocean. Further, Canada can act without having to take into account other factors when handling the problem of the lack of government presence in Ethiopia. The Canadian government could take into account how easy it would be for them to hide out in the United States and avoid legal system.
Therefore, Canada has something to offer the United States: a practical approach to dealing with refugees in which there is no fear of violating immigration laws, creating jobs in an affected region and bridging the U.S.-Canadian gap in perceptions of the plight of refugees. If Canada were to take into account all of the positive things that they could do to help the U.S. in its time of crisis, one of the most important would be to send humanitarian aid to Ethiopia through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
It will be very unfortunate for the U.S. if there is a refugee crisis in Ethiopia because Canada will end up playing a humanitarian role, which can take place even if there is a low immigration level within the U.S. Right now, there are 2.5 million displaced refugees in Ethiopia alone, and what’s more, many more refugees are flooding the Ethiopian border with Sudan and Somalia. Canada can do much to assist the displaced and save some lives that are in danger of dying in the refugee camps, as well as help other refugees who are suffering in the European Union.
Canada’s U.S. ambassador Kelly Craft recently described her visit to Ethiopia in a positive light and she compared the two countries’ accomplishments. But some aspects of their ways to deal with refugees did not align.