NEW DELHI: Regions apart from West Asia have been largely overlooked when it comes to refugees and their conditions. The most disregarded of these would be the African refugee crisis which currently affects more than 18 million people. A recent UNHCR report noted that Sub-Saharan Africa hosts more than 26% of the refugee population. Nigeria alone has the third largest refugee population of the world. Ethnic tensions, border clashes and religious connotations have characterized conflicts in Africa, and unsurprisingly, these have received scarce attention.

Mainstream media portrays African refugees as scrambling to enter Europe on overcrowded Mediterranean boats and as the undeserving ones when compared to 'legitimate refugees' such as the Syrians. Both of these claims are fallacious. Most African refugee movements are not economically motivated, they are fueled by genuine conflicts. People in these areas have fled these places not in search of a fancier country to live, but from fear of atrocities, murders, rapes, and end number of horrifying acts that are commonplace incidents there, but scarcely make it as news to us. Moreover, much of the refugee movement is indigenous. Reports documenting these movements have found that most of these refugees are Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who flee to neighboring African countries and not to Europe.

Africa consists of a variety of ethnicities, religions, and nations. Colonialism and other kinds of western intervention have historically tried to integrate all of these differences into a single administrative unit, most even profiting off these divisions in economic and political terms. But, these have created considerable internal tensions often manifesting in the most devastating of ways. Boko Haram has been a major source of conflict for Cameroon, Nigeria and Chad. It has forced people to flee their homes, girls have been raped, people have been slaughtered, raids and bombings were something unexceptional. The abduction of some 276 Chibok girls garnered a lot of media attention, but so far thousands have been the victims of these abductions. Many have been forced into sexual slavery. Most of the girls haven't returned.

The ongoing civil war in Somalia has been one of the bloodiest conflicts in recent history. Burundi has been witnessing the most violent of attacks by its own government, a number of people have been killed and imprisoned. South Sudan is on the verge of an ethnic civil war which threatens to subvert the whole region. Apart from these, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Mali, Libya, Algeria, Central African Republic, Congo have all experienced increased levels of conflicts. Consequently, African refugees flee from one conflict-ridden region to another without a hope for safety.

Furthermore, the smuggling and trafficking networks that facilitate the refugee movements are extremely dangerous for the latter. The overcrowded vehicles, perilous journeys, minor battles over turf are general features of these networks. Desperate refugees pay a great price for this, in terms of money and sometimes their lives. More refugees have died in the Sahara desert than the highly publicized Mediterranean. Trading is scarce as trade routes have been converted into migration courses.

In top headlines, the words 'refugee' and 'crisis' are almost always preceded by 'Europe'. It's simply not about the sporadic media attention that African refugee crisis gets that elicits compassion, but rather most of the times this is translated into assistance in terms of donations and aids. The world's largest refugee camp in Kenya, 'Dadaab', is on the verge of closure. Refugee camps are woefully short of funds, human rights abuses are rampant, the international assistance is not enough and we've shamelessly ignored Africa and its wounds.