Oxfam tells us that it's simply shameful that the rich countries are not taking more of the current refugee flow. The difficulty with this claim is that the current numbers are the result of the way that international law works. This is, today's situation, exactly how the United Nations has agreed, and the member states have agreed, that refugees should be handled.
We thus have Oxfam opening something of a Pandora's Box. If those glorious institutions are wrong on this issue, well, what else are they wrong upon?
The six wealthiest countries in the world, which between them account for almost 60% of the global economy, host less than 9% of the world’s refugees, while poorer countries shoulder most of the burden, Oxfam has said.
According to a report released by the charity on Monday, the US, China, Japan,Germany, France and the UK, which together make up 56.6% of global GDP, between them host just 2.1 million refugees: 8.9% of the world’s total.
Of these 2.1 million people, roughly a third are hosted by Germany (736,740), while the remaining 1.4 million are split between the other five countries. The UK hosts 168,937 refugees, a figure Oxfam GB chief executive, Mark Goldring, has called shameful.
In contrast, more than half of the world’s refugees – almost 12 million people – live in Jordan, Turkey, Palestine, Pakistan, Lebanon and South Africa, despite the fact these places make up less than 2% of the world’s economy.
Everyone has a right to claim asylum (that is, to be both a refugee and to be welcomed and cared for) as a result either of persecution or more generally from war and such. This is an absolute right, it cannot in law be denied.
However, a refugee must claim asylum in the first safe country that is reached. Thus Syrians who have (entirely rightly and correctly in law) fled the war in Syria and reached Lebanon or Turkey not only can claim asylum there they must.
Someone who gets off a plane from Syria to Heathrow can claim, and should be granted, asylum in the UK. That's what the system is. The reason it is this way is that asylum, that duty to those at risk, is not the same as open borders nor the ability to go jurisdiction shopping as a route of immigration.
Thus asylum duties are going to fall heavily on those countries which are geographically connected to those places going through the horrors which generate the right to asylum. This is not a defect of the current policy it is the point and purpose of it. For the assumption is that once the war or the persecution has finished then people will go home.
That Japan or the UK, island nations some 10 or 20 safe national jurisdictions away from the troubles, do not have that many refugees is not some awful problem it's just something baked into the international law on this subject.
Perhaps it shouldn't be this way, perhaps international law is pants. But that does rather open that Pandora's Box, doesn't it - what else does international law get completely wrong?