31 mil­lion forced to flee wars, dis­as­ters in 2016

New Straits Times - - World -

LON­DON: More than 31 mil­lion peo­ple — one per­son ev­ery sec­ond — were up­rooted in their home coun­try last year be­cause of con­flicts and dis­as­ters, and num­bers will grow un­less the un­der­ly­ing causes like cli­mate change and po­lit­i­cal tur­moil are tack­led, an aid group said yes­ter­day.

Nearly seven mil­lion peo­ple, mostly from sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa and the Mid­dle East, were displaced be­cause of con­flicts, ac­cord­ing to data by the In­ter­nal Dis­place­ment Mon­i­tor­ing Cen­tre (IDMC).

A fur­ther 24 mil­lion peo­ple, mainly in Asia, were forced to flee to an­other area of the coun­try be­cause of a nat­u­ral dis­as­ter, IDMC said in a re­port.

In­ter­nally displaced peo­ple (IDPs) re­main in their own coun­try and can’t claim in­ter­na­tional pro­tec­tion, IDMC says.

For this rea­son, IDPs are of­ten over­looked un­til hu­man­i­tar­ian crises spill across bor­ders, said IDMC’s di­rec­tor Alexan­dra Bi­lak.

“It can eas­ily fall off the agenda be­cause na­tional gov­ern­ments, in some cases, don’t want to ac­knowl­edge it and cer­tainly don’t want any­one ex­ter­nal to start look­ing into the af­fairs in their sov­er­eign state,” she said.

Last year, con­flicts up­rooted the most peo­ple in the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo, with 922,000 flee­ing their homes, fol­lowed by Syria (824,000) and Iraq (659,000).

But nat­u­ral dis­as­ters displaced three times as many peo­ple as con­flicts, with more than seven mil­lion peo­ple in China forced to leave their homes, fol­lowed by the Philip­pines at nearly six mil­lion and In­dia at nearly 2.5 mil­lion.

Bi­lak said pol­i­cy­mak­ers ur­gently needed to ad­dress the root causes of dis­place­ment and fo­cus more on IDPs since they may well flee to other coun­tries if their sit­u­a­tion wors­ens.

“Peo­ple who are displaced over long pe­ri­ods of time and face huge threats to their daily safety and se­cu­rity will ul­ti­mately have to seek pro­tec­tion else­where if they’re not get­ting it in their coun­try,” she said.

Mil­lions of Syr­i­ans were displaced dur­ing the first years of the war, Bi­lak said, flee­ing the coun­try in huge num­bers in 2014 and 2015, trig­ger­ing the big­gest mi­gra­tion cri­sis since World War 2.

“Not enough is be­ing spent on preven­tion and much more is be­ing spent on the symp­toms of these crises,” she said.

“The im­pact of cli­mate change is only go­ing to lead to more ex­treme weather ... which will put pres­sure on re­sources, which will lead to more con­flicts and it con­trib­ute to that vi­cious cy­cle of dis­place­ment,” she said. Reuters

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