If you grew up in Islamabad, you’re probably very familiar with the Afghan face: the man who makes delectable large Afghani rotis in his tandoor, the taxi driver who shrugs his shoulders when you try to haggle on taxi fare, old women in traditional Afghani colorful, worn out dresses, who show up at your doorstep and refuse to leave till they collect their dues, not to forget the bright green eyed street kids, impervious to their dirt streaked faces, collecting garbage off the streets of Islamabad. This presence of Afghan influence, the way their culture has slowly seeped into and intertwined with ours, just goes to show the extent of Pakistani hospitality towards the 1.8 million refugees residing here, making Pakistan the biggest host country in absolute terms and the burden on the economy.

Despite the many problems that we as a nation face everyday like terrorism, unemployment and inflation, the Pakistani government as well as the people have welcomed and allowed the influx of refugees over the last four decades. Although since 2002, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has facilitated the return of 3.8 million registered Afghans from Pakistan, once the situation in Afghanistan began to stabilise, only after the fateful and horrific event of the Peshawar school massacre, did the intense crackdown begin on Afghan nationals, with 4000-5000 refugees leaving for Afghanistan each month as part of the Zarb-e-Azab operation carried out by the Pakistan army.

The UNHCR and the government of Pakistan has jointly developed supporting plans for phased voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees to their homeland in line with the absorption capacity in Afghanistan and the problems faced on the ground. The Pakistan government respects the fact that the next generation of these refugees has been born in Pakistan and this is home for them, as they know it. The harsh realities of Afghanistan will be taxing for them, hence the Afghan and Pakistan governments have made a joint committee to develop a mechanism to register the undocumented Afghan nationals and also ensured that no crackdown would be carried out against registered Afghan nationals in Pakistan.

Pakistan may not be known in the international community for being the most progressive of states but for once, we have set a great example for how refugees fleeing due to oppression from their home countries, deserve to be treated. Men, women and children do not deserve to drown to death in overcrowded boats because countries refuse to open their borders for them. Women do not deserve to be raped at borders, fleeing from conflict and death into the clutches of border control officials to have their dignity taken. And children do not deserve to drink their urine and then die of dehydration and hunger anyway on stranded boats in the middle of the sea. This is how the world is responding to the worst global refugee crisis since the World War II.

The situation in Syria is, in the words of António Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “the most dramatic humanitarian crisis the world has faced in a very long time.” Tens of thousands of Syrians have fled fighting and persecution in the northern city of Hassakeh, with residents describing widespread panic following assault by the so-called Islamic State or Daesh. Excluding Palestinian refugees, Syrians are the largest refugee population in the world currently. There are currently over four million refugees from Syria, 95% of whom are living in just five host countries. Yet the international community’s response to the crisis remains dismal: only 23% of the UN humanitarian appeal for Syria’s refugees was funded as of 3 June 2015. In addition, the international community has offered only a relatively small number of resettlement and humanitarian admission places to Syria’s most vulnerable refugees; this number stands at just 87,442, or 2.2% of Syrians registered with UNHCR in the main host countries.

Thousands of Rohingya Muslims fled from persecution and crippling poverty from Myanmar this year, cramped into wooden boats, spent months drifting in the Andaman Sea because no country wanted to take them in. It is estimated that 6000 to 20,000 people were stranded at sea. The Thai government had begun to crackdown on smugglers who have traditionally taken them to camps in southern Thailand and effectively held them ransom. As a result the smugglers started abandoning them at sea. Not only were countries in the region unwilling to let them land, fishermen were told not to assist them in any way. After immense international pressure, Thailand provided them some aid at sea and turned them away, while Malaysia and Indonesia agreed to take in 7000 migrants only on the condition that they will settle elsewhere within a year.

Poverty and war in places like Libya, South Sudan, Nigeria, Eritrea and Syria are driving migrants to make the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean Sea. A very large number of 137,000 people tried to cross the Mediterranean in hopes to reach Europe this year. Out of these 1800 people lost their life. Last year, 219,000 people took dangerous, irregular routes to Europe by land and sea, and about 3,500 drowned, according to the UN. European leaders have been at loggerheads at to what to do with these refugees. Italy initiated a rescue operation using a naval submarine last year and saved many migrants stranded at sea. But as it was a costly operation it was cancelled this year. The rest of EU not only refused to extend help but also dejected Italy from carrying out the rescue operation, as this would encourage other people to make this perilous journey. After intense international pressure the EU has decided to share the burden across the member countries, forcefully assigning a certain number of refugees to each according to the resettlement plan.

This decision has already been met with fierce opposition from central European countries in particular; the crisis has provoked a remarkably strong wave of xenophobia and Islamophobia. Hungary is planning to build a four metre-high wall along its border with Serbia in a bid to keep immigrants from crossing. Their government has recently run a poster campaign warning immigrants not to take Hungarian jobs. The European Commission is calling on the Czech Republic to take in around 1,300 refugees as part of the resettlement project. But politicians have emphatically rejected the proposal. It has been received with remarkable acrimony on Czech and Slovak social networks, too, where anti-immigrant groups have attracted thousands of supporters.

The coldest response to the crisis has been seen by the UK, who despite being deeply involved the Middle East conflict, both politically and militarily; refuse visas to asylum seekers by the thousands. Since the Syrian crisis began only 4000 refugees have been granted stay in the UK. Earlier in the year, the UNHCR called on countries to take in an additional 100,000 Syrians in 2015 and 2016. The UK responded with the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme. As of August, the total number of Syrians resettled was 50. This is a stark contrast with some of its neighbouring countries, where small Sweden has taken in 24,667 Syrians and Germany, 23,591.

The global response to the refugee crisis is a dismal one to say the least. Where the global North have the resources to support the wave of people displaced by conflict, they are impervious to the human suffering and unwilling to extend their generosity to people, not their own. In stark contrast countries like Pakistan, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, which are struggling under the weight of their own internal conflicts and problems, extend help beyond their means. This crisis needs to be addressed with the sensitivity and empathy it deserves. A human life in this part of the world should be worth the same as their part of the world. When this disparity diminishes maybe we would be one step closer to peace than we are now.