According to a new UN report, the number of refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced people across the world has surpassed 50 million people for the first time since world war II.
A report by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) showed that 51.2 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of 2013, an increase of six million compared to 2012 figures.
António Guterres, the UN high commissioner for refugees, said, “We are seeing here the immense costs of not ending wars, of failing to resolve or prevent conflict.
“Without this, the alarming levels of conflict and the mass suffering that is reflected in these figures will continue,” he warned.
“Peace is today dangerously in deficit. Humanitarians can help as a palliative, but political solutions are vitally needed.
The reason behind the dramatic increase in figures shown in the global trends report is largely attributed to the war in Syria.
So far it is believed that the conflict has created 2.5 million refugees and 6.5 million internally displaced people, while an increase in displacement has also been noted in the Central African Republic and South Sudan.
“The worldwide total of 51.2 million forcibly displaced represents a huge number of people in need of help, with implications both for foreign aid budgets in the world’s donor nations and the absorption and hosting capacities of countries on the front lines of refugee crises,” continued Guterres.
“The international community has to overcome its differences and find solutions to the conflicts of today in South Sudan, Syria, Central African Republic and elsewhere. Non-traditional donors need to step up alongside traditional donors.
“As many people are forcibly displaced today as the entire populations of medium-to-large countries such as Colombia or Spain, South Africa or South Korea.”
In response to the shocking figures, and to mark world refugee day, EU international cooperation, humanitarian aid and crisis response commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, development commissioner Andris Piebalgs and home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmström released a joint statement.
They said, “The latest numbers published today by the office of the [UNHCR} are dramatic. More than 51 million people have been forcibly displaced: 16.7 million of them are refugees, 33.3 million are internally displaced within their own countries and 1.2 million are seeking asylum.
“This is almost the same as the combined population of five EU member states: the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria and Romania.
“What we cannot quantify is their suffering, the broken families, destroyed childhoods and livelihoods that come with fleeing a conflict or a disaster. Half of the refugee population are children,” they added.
“The world is facing several critical crises resulting in an increasing number of refugees and displaced people around the world.
“Syria – so recently a middle-income nation – now rivals Afghanistan as the world’s largest refugee-producing country,” they wrote, also highlighting Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mali as places where the number of refugees and displaced people are a cause for concern.
Turning to the role of the Europe, they said, “The EU makes serious efforts to help the many millions of people affected. The EU’s humanitarian aid is helping refugees and [internally displaced people] in 33 countries.
“New rules of dealing with asylum inside the EU were agreed last year. The common European asylum system is an historic achievement that provides new rules setting out common high standards and stronger cooperation to ensure that asylum seekers are treated equally in an open and fair system – no matter where they apply.
“We now must ensure that this common system will be implemented and function correctly,” they urged, ” This is all the more important at a time when asylum applicants in EU member states have increased significantly – to 435,000 in 2013, which is 100,000 more than the year before.”
“The EU is also responding to the many people who risk their lives to reach the EU Mediterranean shores and escape persecution or civil wars.
“Coordinated action at the EU level can ensure that those in need of protection arrive safely to the EU.
“Opening legal ways for people seeking protection to come to the EU, especially the most vulnerable, should be a priority, in particular by an increased commitment to resettlement and the use of humanitarian visas,” it finished.
According to global human rights organisation Amnesty International, developing countries are the most affected by the ongoing refugee and displaced people crisis.
In 2013, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Pakistan were the top five refugee hosting countries, with Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey receiving 1,524,979 refugees from Syria alone.
Meanwhile, in 2013 more than 435,000 people sought asylum in the EU, yet only 136,000 people were granted it.
However, the EU’s 28 member states have pledged to resettle 30,498 Syrians, with most – 25,500 – planned to be resettled in Germany.
Sherif Elsayed-Ali, deputy director for global issues at Amnesty International, said, “The globe’s self-styled leaders are lagging far-behind the developing world when it comes to bearing the burden of the global refugee crisis.
“Given the economic advantages rich countries have over poor, it’s doubly shocking to see them shirking their responsibility to protect refugees to such a ludicrous extent – this must end,” he criticised.
Elsayed-Ali went on, “There is never an excuse for ill-treatment, but it’s particularly abhorrent to see countries subjecting refugees and asylum seekers to treatment they wouldn’t dream of visiting on their own nationals
“It’s time for governments in developed countries to stop thinking in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them'”, he argued, concluding, “Refugees and asylum seekers have often endured terrible ordeals – they deserve to be protected and treated with humanity and dignity.”
Written for theparliamentmagazine.eu