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UN Report: War, Violence and Persecution Displaced 68 Million People in 2017


Women and children among Syrian refugees striking at the platform of Budapest Keleti railway station. Refugee crisis. Budapest, Hungary, Central Europe, 4 September 2015.By Mstyslav Chernov [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

Over 68 million people worldwide were forced to flee their homes due to war, persecution, and violence in 2017 according to the latest report from the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR). That translates to one person every two seconds forcibly displaced around the world.

Included in that figure are refugees who fled their countries to escape conflict and persecution which accounted for 25.4 million people and represents a 2.9 million increase on 2016 statistics. It is the biggest increase UNHCR has ever seen in a single year.

The UNHCR thinks the increasing refugee numbers will likely continue for the next five years. Over half of those uprooted (53 percent), including refugees, asylum seekers, and people internally displaced, were minors. Additionally, over 16 million were displaced for the first time last year.

“The global figure has gone up again by a couple of million. This is because of protracted conflicts and lack of solutions for those conflicts that continue, continuous pressure on civilians in countries of conflict that pushed them to leave their homes and new or aggravating crises, like the Rohingya crisis,”,” said UNHCR High Commissioner Filippo Grandi.

After excluding Palestinians, around two-thirds of all the world’s refugees are from just five countries: Somalia, Syria, South Sudan, Myanmar, and Afghanistan. Around 6.3 million Syrians fled their country to seek refuge in countries such as Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq.

Turkey sheltered the highest number of refugees (3.5 million), while Lebanon accounted for the greatest number of refugees in comparison to their population. An earlier report from the Global Peace Index (GPI) showed that refugees accounted for one percent of the global population in 2017.

UNHCR released the report on the eve of World Refugee day which falls on June 20. Contrary to some popular beliefs, most refugees do not cross national borders. Almost two-thirds of the 68 million people included in the UNHCR statistics are displaced inside of their own countries.

What can the world do for refugees?

As the refugee crisis has grown around the world, reaction to migrants has varied. Some countries have opened their doors to refugees, but almost regardless of where refugees end up, they experience some form of protest, as existing residents blame refugees for taking up resources and jobs.

The U.S. adopted a zero-tolerance approach at their southern border in hopes of deterring immigration. Part of the new policy is to separate children from their parents when families are caught at the border.  While Italy, under its populist government, recently made headlines for refusing to let the migrant rescue ship Aquarius MV dock at any of its ports. The country’s new populist government has adopted a tougher anti-immigration tone.

In Hungary, the government drafted a law to criminalize people helping refugees or asylum seekers. The law outlaws the provision of information, legal advice and even food to asylum-seekers, threatening jail time for those who do so.

The UNHCR commission’s chief expressed concern about how the West is dealing with refugees around the world.

“We are at a watershed, where success in managing forced displacement globally requires a new and far more comprehensive approach so that countries and communities aren’t left dealing with this alone,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. “But there is reason for some hope. Fourteen countries are already pioneering a new blueprint for responding to refugee situations and in a matter of months a new Global Compact on Refugees will be ready for adoption by the United Nations General Assembly,” he added.

No matter how severe the situation is, saving lives is the first thing the world must focus on to solve the refugee crisis, as Amnesty International argues. Nobody needs to die while crossing the border or the sea and Amnesty International is pushing an eight-step plan to alleviate the refugee crisis. The plan outlines steps to take to save lives, stop trafficking and racism and treat asylum as a human right. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), more than 3,100 migrants died while crossing the Mediterranean Sea in 2017.

“We need to look at root causes and we need to address the reasons why these people leave violence and war,” Grandi added.

How You Can Help

One way you can help refugees is through Kiva, a microlending platform. Kiva has a World Refugee Fund where you can make loans with as little as $25 to refugees around the world. Loans are used to rebuild homes, upgrade businesses, pay medical or education bills, pay for legal assistance and so on.

On World Refugee Day Kiva and its partners are matching all loans one to one, meaning your donation has twice the impact. Go here to help a refugee today or any day.

Yasmeen Rasidi

Yasmeen is a writer and political science graduate of the National University, Jakarta. She covers a variety of topics for Citizen Truth including the Asia and Pacific region, international conflicts and press freedom issues. Yasmeen had worked for Xinhua Indonesia and GeoStrategist previously. She writes from Jakarta, Indonesia.

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