66 MILLION DISPLACED PEOPLE: HUMAN COST OF WAR IN 2016

The article originally appeared on India Today.

Wars, homegrown armed civil conflicts and disasters left 65.6 million people displaced in 2016 a United Nations report released on the World Refugee Day on June 20 says. “Global Trends: Forced Displacements in 2016“, released by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says that “20 people are newly displaced every minute or one person every three seconds.” It puts the global refugee count at 22.5 million, internally displaced at 40.3 million and asylum seekers at 2.8 million. Be it wars being waged by humans or against nature, the human crisis is getting deeper.

Syrian civil war that is in sixth year with no signs of cessation of hostilities continues to force people out of their homes and country with 12 million Syrian refugees scattered across countries and continents. They are followed by 7.7 million displaced Colombian refugees, 4.7 million Afghan refugees and 4.2 million Iraqi refugees. Children make for around 31 per cent of the world’s population but 51 per cent refugees today are children including those 75,000 asylum seekers who were left alone or were separated from their families.

To make matters worse, South Sudan, that gained independence from Sudan in 2011 after years of civil war, has emerged as the new crisis spot to produce refugees. Despite independence, civil war has continued and according to the report, 3.3 million South Sudanese were forcibly displaced by the end of 2016. The report says that “South Sudan became the biggest new factor when peace efforts broke down in July 2016 resulting in some 737,400 people fleeing by the end of the year”. South Sudan, in fact, has replaced Syria as the country with the fastest-growing displacement of people in the world. It is among the top three countries along with Syria and Afghanistan accounting for 55 per cent of refugees worldwide.

And it’s the poor and developing countries support them the most. They are home to about 84 per cent of refugees and asylum seekers. In fact, according to the report, “one in every three people, roughly 4.9 million people, were hosted by the least developed countries in 2016.”

Europe saw millions of refugees and migrants reaching to its countries in 2015. But since then, the rich western nations have tightened their procedures to take in refugees and asylum seekers after a series of terrorist attacks involving refugees, migrants or their dependents. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations’ migration agency, the number of migrants and refugees that entered Europe by sea routes saw further drastic reduction this year. 73,189 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2017 whereas the corresponding figure for January-June 11 was 211434, almost three times. In 2015, European countries had received 1,321,560 asylum claims.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has lauded the role of poor and developing countries saying “it is so inspiring to see countries with the least doing the most for refugees.” At the same time, the UN report has warned on this huge imbalance that can create instability in the host countries saying “the figure illustrates the need for countries and communities supporting refugees and other displaced people to be robustly resourced and supported.”

©SantoshChaubey

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