Record 65.6m people displaced worldwide
Ships rescue 730 migrants
GENEVA, June 19, (Agencies): Devastating conflicts, violence and persecution in places like Syria and South Sudan had left a record 65.6 million people uprooted from their homes by the end of 2016, the UN said Monday.
That number marks a jump of just 300,000 from the end of 2015, but is more than six million higher than at the end of 2014, according to a fresh report published by the UN refugee agency. This is “the highest figure since we started recording these figures,” UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi told reporters ahead of the report launch.
“By any measure, this is an unacceptable number, and it speaks louder than ever to the need for solidarity and common purpose in preventing and resolving crises,” he said.
The figures released ahead of World Refugee Day showed that a full 10.3 million of the world’s displaced people fled their homes last year alone, including 3.4 million who crossed international borders to become refugees.
“This equates to one person becoming displaced every three seconds — less than the time it takes to read this sentence,” UNHCR pointed out in a statement.
Most people who have been forced from their homes flee within their own country, and are defined as internally displaced people, or IDPs.
At the end of 2016, there were some 40.3 million IDPs in the world, down slightly from 40.8 million a year earlier, with Syria, Iraq and Colombia accounting for the greatest numbers.
Another 22.5 million people — half of them children — were registered as refugees last year, the UNHCR report showed, pointing out that this is “the highest level ever recorded”.
Syria’s six-year conflict alone has sent more than 5.5 million people seeking safety in other countries, including 825,000 last year alone, making it the world’s biggest producer of refugees.
Along with the 6.3 million Syrians displaced inside the country, these numbers show that a nearly two thirds of all Syrians have been forced from their homes, the report said.
As the Syrian civil war rages on, desperately needed funding for humanitarian aid in the country has begun to dwindle, Grandi said, lamenting that very little of the billions promised at an international donor’s conference in Brussels in April had so far materialised.
The Syrian conflict, which has killed more than 320,000 people, “is becoming a forgotten crisis,” he warned.
Ships rescue some 730 migrants:
sHumanitarian ships picked up about 730 migrants on Sunday from rubber and wooden boats in the Mediterranean, adding to a lengthening list of rescue operations in recent days.
The migrants were picked up in seven separate rescue operations aboard three dinghies and four wooden craft, Italy’s coastguard said on Sunday.
Save the Children SAR team leader Gillian Moyes, onboard the rescue vessel Vos Hestia, said the past few days had been extremely busy, following a pattern seen in recent weeks.
“We are seeing increasing numbers of people, large scale rescues with multiple boats,” she said.
She added there was insufficient capacity in search and rescues to deal with the situation unfolding in the Mediterranean.
On Saturday, hundreds of migrants, some drifting in rubber dinghies off the coast of Libya, were picked up by Spanish and Italian ships.
A Spanish navy ship was dispatched to help two migrant boats struggling to stay afloat near Libya on Saturday afternoon, and at sundown it found three other rubber dinghies transporting migrants in the area, Spain’s Defence Ministry said in a statement on Sunday.
In total 526 people, including eight pregnant women and nine children, were picked up in that rescue, aided by a ship belonging to a non-governmental organisation, the ministry said. The migrants were headed to an Italian port, it added.
Around 800 migrants were rescued from rubber boats in six operations in the Mediterranean on Saturday, the Italian coastguard said.
Italy arrests asylum seeker:
Italy on Monday arrested a 29-year-old Iraqi asylum seeker for supplying news and materials in support of Islamic State and who said those who do not believe in Islam “should have their throats cut”, police said.
A southern Italian court ordered the man’s arrest for conspiracy to commit international terrorism and inciting others to break the law, they said in a statement.
The man sought to convince other asylum seekers living in a state-funded shelter in the southern city of Crotone to “perpetrate acts of violence with terrorist objectives”, the police said.
“The Iraqi - considered violent and inclined toward criminal activity - had celebrated after the recent terrorist attack in Manchester,” they said, referring to a suicide bombing last month at a pop concert in the northern English city that killed 22 people.
In a recorded telephone conversation between the arrested man and his sister, he said he had been called to join the “holy war” in his country, but had decided instead to stay in Italy to “redeem the infidels” who “should have their throats cut”.
Police gave no further details and said they would elaborate on the case later in the day.
The case will fuel Italy’s increasingly bitter political debate over citizenship laws and the management of boat migrant arrivals ahead of a national election expected in the first half of next year.
Over the weekend, some 1,500 migrants were pulled from unsafe and overcrowded boats off the coast of Libya and are now being brought to Italy by rescue ships.
Italy is on the frontline of Europe’s migration crisis, especially after an agreement between the European Union and Turkey last year that virtually stopped boat crossings to Greece.
Half a million people, many of them Muslims from North Africa and the Middle East, have come to Europe via Italy in the past three years, and boat arrivals are up more than 17 percent in 2017 on the previous year.
Almost 200,000 asylum seekers are living in Italian shelters as they wait to hear whether they qualify for international protection.