Summary of Refuge

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Refuge book summary

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If you think handling the refugee crisis is a simple matter of opening or closing borders, getAbstract recommends Alexander Betts and Paul Collier’s impassioned look at the global refugee crisis for additional context. The Oxford University professors serve up a succinct analysis of the forces that have led nearly 1% of the globe’s population – primarily Syrians and Libyans – to risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean. They pointedly sum up Europe’s response, which they dismiss as panicked and short-sighted. Wealthy countries that turn away huddled masses fleeing for their lives, the authors claim, are akin to able-bodied adults declining to save a drowning child because they don't want to get their clothes wet. Betts and Collier’s prose is both erudite and refreshingly straightforward, and they make a compelling case for why a new, multifaceted approach to refugees is needed. But the authors do seem to downplay the deep economic anxieties and cultural fears sweeping much of the globe. Until those insecurities ease, it seems unlikely that the world’s powers will tap into the “generosity of spirit” that the authors say should form the foundation of any modern refugee policy.

About the Authors

Alexander Betts is the Leopold W. Muller Professor of Forced Migration and International Affairs at Oxford University. Paul Collier is a professor of economics and public policy at Oxford University.


Mass Violence Sparks a Worldwide Crisis

The past decade has seen unprecedented levels of upheaval and with it, the worst episode of mass displacement since World War II. Chronic chaos in such states as Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia has driven much of the displacement. Crises have also erupted in South Sudan, Sudan, Yemen, Burundi, Ukraine, the Central African Republic, Myanmar and Eritrea. All told, some 65.3 million individuals – fully one in every 113 people on the planet – have found themselves forced from their homes by war, civil unrest or natural disasters. More than 21 million of these displaced souls have journeyed across a national border in search of safety; this distinction makes them refugees. 

Overall, humanity has grown healthier and wealthier in recent decades. Yet, with nearly 1% of the world’s population on the run from violence or disaster, the globe is a more unsettled place than ever and the international community is ill-prepared to deal with that fact. In 2015, when large numbers of refugees began arriving in Europe after death-defying journeys across...

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