With cheeks flushed under the intense sun but eyes glaring more burningly, the Honduran refugees on the border of Mexico are desperately staring at the door for entry procedures. However, the door is firmly closed and only a few have passed through. Having been refused, the refugees are on the risky road to achieve the status of official refugees and get the opportunity to build their new lives. Where will they be able to settle down?
According to the Global Study on Homicide Report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the homicide rate of Honduras was the highest among the investigated 114 countries. Since the coup in 2009, the nation has suffered from an unsecure public order dominated by gangs. To make things worse, the unstable society is also stained by poverty. According to the World Bank, the impoverished who live on less than 2,150 won a day accounted to about 70 percent of the population in 2016. Forced out of the unbearable nation, many Honduran people joined the migrant crowd called the Caravan that started forming on October 12, whose size expanded from 200 to 7,300 people in only ten days.
Trump Desperate to Block Caravan
President Donald Trump has pursued anti-immigrant policies since the beginning of his presidential campaign. For example, he introduced the “Zero Tolerance” principle to imprison adult illegal immigrants and separate them from their children. Although having been harshly criticized by the world and having been forced to stop the family separation, President Trump is still actively opposing the inflow of illegal immigrants, which seems to include refugees as well. Especially, the midterm election in November drew his attention to the current Caravan issue.
Since the beginning of the Caravan, he has continued to tweet about the criminal danger of the unidentified refugees and prepared countermeasures. Before introducing a new law to ban the entry of the Caravan, he was threatening the neighboring nations. For example, he tweeted on October 16 that the United States (U.S.) would cut financial support for Honduras if its government did not make the Caravan members return to the country. Although Honduras opposed his demand, Mexico took a different stance.
Bordering with the U.S. and having considerable economic dependence, Mexico devoted its energy to blocking the refugees from reaching the U.S. border. However, the barricade on the southern bridge could not successfully stop the refugees who crossed the river at the risk of their lives. The Mexican president then announced the estas en to casa policy to officially recommend legitimate asylum. It was to hinder them from going north by imposing a requirement asking them to stay in southern Mexico in order to get approved.
However, the majority of the Caravan declared their unwavering will to enter the U.S. Although the Caravan’s number decreased to about 4,000 during the journey, it was still perceived as a threat to the U.S. With the ongoing conflict, the country announced it would deploy about 5,000 soldiers to the southern border on October 29. The next day, President Trump declared that he was considering announcing an executive order to get rid of the birthright citizenship stated in the 14th Amendment. Although the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) questioned the legality of the measure, President Trump’s next moves are to be watched out for.
Not Only U.S. but Also Korea
Korea is unlikely to avoid the global conflicts over refugees demonstrated in the U.S. "In the global world, the boundary of domestic and overseas issues is vague," said Professor Lee Hyon-soo (Law School, Konkuk University). In particular, Korea has undergone civil strife regarding the Yemeni refugees on Jeju Island. Although the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) of Korea decided to provide renewable one-year humanitarian visas for 399 Yemenites, arguments are still building up surrounding the judgment. One of the disputes is whether the influx of Muslim culture is dangerous or not.
Islamophobia is the common denominator of the U.S. and Korea. In the U.S., the president added his voice, tweeting about the high possibility of the presence of criminals in the Caravan. Moreover, fake news is continually spread by the media and social networking services (SNS). For example, Esther Prayer Movement, a Korean Christian organization, turned out to have circulated a rumor about Muslim sexual offenders. Indeed, respondents who had positive perceptions of refugees declined from 50.7 percent to 28.7 percent when the category was narrowed down to Muslim refugees, according to a research by JoongAng Ilbo which was reported by Yoo Seong-un on August 6.
Indefinite Fear Never Helps
However, looking at the problem from a view that is prejudiced and invalid does not settle the situation. Since the chronic problems in the countries that refugees leave behind cannot be solved in a day, the issue is expected to be more serious and broader in a global sense. Therefore, preparing for future cases seems to be important to prevent the kind of social confusion that was provoked when the Yemenites arrived. Even though President Trump has incited controversies regarding the tendency for populism and unconditional instigation against Muslims, one may claim that his determination to examine and amend specific contents of the law can be exemplary.
The MOJ will be required to take swift and transparent steps to gather opinions to revise the refugee law and build up a foundation. For instance, it announced a plan to establish a refugee tribunal in August, but failed to draw up the guideline for execution. In order to prosecute the establishment, it is necessary to secure the budget and employ officials and professionals. When the efforts of the government are combined with reasonable public discussion based on the facts, the nation will be able to navigate safely in the sea of global problems.
▲ Professor Lee Hyon-soo. PROVIDED BY PROFESSOR LEE HYON-SOO
It is true that refugee issues cannot be solved easily. However, the unavoidable agenda has been already thrown to countries across the world. Keeping an eye out for the measures of the U.S. and Mexico concerning the Honduran refugees will be critical in figuring out the worldwide movement and getting hints about what path to follow. At this moment, refraining from fake news and amending the legal system can be the first step in settling the social conflicts provoked by the refugees and seeking global peace.