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Refugees are reshaping the world

A Ukrainian boy after arriving in Poland with his mother last March. Maja Hitij/Getty

“Not since 1945 have so many people fled their homes and nations,” says Max Hastings in Bloomberg. An “extraordinarily high proportion” of these refugees are victims of Vladimir Putin. Seven million Syrians – more than a quarter of the country’s population – have been forced out because of Putin’s client Bashar al-Assad. Then there are the five million who have left Ukraine, almost all of whom are living in the European Union. In Asia, the Myanmar dictatorship has driven a million ethnic-minority Rohingya into neighbouring Bangladesh. A “host of others” in Africa and South America are moving north to escape poverty.

Refugees are not a new phenomenon: last century, tens of millions were displaced because of conflicts in Europe, India, Korea and Vietnam. But now they’ve become part of the planet’s “chronic condition” ­– an endless surge of impoverished people “in search of better lives than they can aspire to at home”. Leaders like Donald Trump and Nigel Farage argue that homing these people would be “a catastrophic mistake”. But economically, it’s in our self-interest to do so – we have to compensate for our “huge demographic shortfall” of native-born workers. That aside, we have a moral obligation to help those suffering because of the “wilful, intended acts of evil people”. Just because we, by chance, are sheltered from war and famine, we shouldn’t succumb to “compassion fatigue” when confronted with a “catalogue of human tragedy”.