In Digest

By Nicholas Keung, immigration reporter, Toronto Star, June 18, 2015

42,500 people per day across the world forced from their homes, UN warns

Fence between Syria and Turkey (Lefteris Pitarakis, AP)

Fence between Syria and Turkey (Lefteris Pitarakis, AP)

Every single day of 2014, an average of 42,500 people worldwide were forced from their homes by war, conflict, unrest and persecution — enough to fill the Air Canada Centre in Toronto twice over. The startling revelation in the latest annual global refugee report has prompted the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to declare this “a dangerous new era” in worldwide displacement.

“We are witnessing a paradigm change, an unchecked slide into an era in which the scale of global forced displacement as well as the response required is now clearly dwarfing anything seen before,” Antonio Guterres, the UN agency’s commissioner, said in a statement. “It is terrifying that on the one hand there is more and more impunity for those starting conflicts, and on the other, there is seeming utter inability of the international community to work together to stop wars and build and preserve peace.”

According to the 97-page annual report to be released in Geneva on Thursday, the number of people forced to flee their homes skyrocketed to 59.5 million last year — the highest ever reported for a single year — from 51.2 million in 2013 and 37.5 million a decade ago. Worldwide, one in every 122 people is now either a refugee, internally displaced or seeking asylum, it said.

At least 15 conflicts have erupted or re-ignited in the last five years, according to the report: eight in Africa (Côte d’Ivoire, Central African Republic, Libya, Mali, northeastern Nigeria, South Sudan and this year in Burundi); three in the Middle East (Syria, Iraq, and Yemen); one in Europe (Ukraine) and three in Asia (Kyrgyzstan, and in several areas of Myanmar and Pakistan).

Few of these crises have been resolved and most still generate new displacement, the UNHCR said. Meanwhile, in 2014, just 126,800 refugees were able to return to their home countries — the lowest number in 31 years.

“With huge shortages of funding and wide gaps in the global regime for protecting victims of war, people in need of compassion, aid and refuge are being abandoned,” said Guterres. “For an age of unprecedented mass displacement, we need an unprecedented humanitarian response and a renewed global commitment to tolerance and protection for people fleeing conflict and persecution.”

Over the last couple of years, the world has struggled to address the growing number of refugees seeking safety by undertaking sea journeys — reminiscent of the exodus of Vietnamese boat people in the 1970s and early 1980s — on the Mediterranean, in the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea, and in Southeast Asia.

Syria was the world’s largest source of both internally displaced people and refugees at 11.5 million last year, followed by Afghanistan with 2.6 million and Somalia with 1.1 million.

Ironically, the report said, it’s the global poor who are housing the majority of refugees. Almost nine out of every 10 refugees were in regions or countries considered economically less developed; a quarter of all refugees were in countries among the UN’s list of least developed nations.

The United States resettled 73,000 UN-referred refugees in 2014, the largest number in the world, followed by Canada (12,300) and Australia (11,600).

Read: Russia Becomes Largest Recipient of Requests for Asylum – UN Report, Sputnik News, June 18, 2015
The UNHCR’s Global Trends Report 2014 explained that the “outbreak of conflict in eastern Ukraine had a major impact on [Russia’s] 2014 figures,” with “271,200, or close to 99 percent of claims in the Russian Federation lodged by Ukrainians.” The report noted that “in previous years, the combined figure had never exceeded the 5,000 mark,” reaching only around 3,400 in 2013.

Overall, the Americas saw a 12 per cent rise in forced displacement. Elsewhere, Europe experienced a 51 per cent increase in the displaced population, mainly a result of the conflict in Ukraine, Mediterranean crossings and the influx of Syrian refugees in Turkey.

A 19 per cent upswing, primarily of Syrians and Libyans, was reported in the Middle East and North Africa; Sub-Saharan Africa was up 17 per cent; and Asia saw a 31 per cent rise, many of them Rohingya displaced from their homes in Myanmar, also known as Burma.

Read also:

Worldwide displacement of people at all-time high, report by UNHCR, June 18, 2015
The number of people forcibly displaced at the end of 2014 had risen to a staggering 59.5 million…

Canada’s immigration detention system breaches human rights, U of T study says, by Nicholas Keung, Toronto Star, June 18, 2015

Lift veil of secrecy on detainee deaths in Canada Border Services custody, editorial, Toronto Star, June 15, 2015



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