Record 60 mil­lion fled ‘out of con­trol’ vi­o­lence in 2014: United Na­tions

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY ABHIK CHANDA

Con­flicts and vi­o­lence rag­ing around the world sent the num­ber of peo­ple forced to flee their homes soar­ing to a record 60 mil­lion last year, the United Na­tions said Thurs­day.

That is 8.3 mil­lion more refugees and in­ter­nally dis­placed peo­ple (IDPs) in the world than in 2013 — the high­est-ever in­crease in a sin­gle year, the U.N. refugee agency said in a re­port ti­tled “World at War.”

“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,” U.N. High Com­mis­sioner for Refugees An­to­nio Guter­res told re­porters ahead of the launch of UNHCR’s an­nual re­port.

A whop­ping 59.5 mil­lion in­di­vid­u­als were dis­placed from their homes world­wide at the end of 2014, “as a re­sult of per­se­cu­tion, con­flict, gen­er­al­ized vi­o­lence, or hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions,” the re­port showed.

That is up from 51.2 mil­lion in 2013 and from 37.5 mil­lion a decade ago, and if these peo­ple were lumped to­gether as a na­tion, it would be the world’s 24th largest.

Of the to­tal, 19.5 mil­lion were refugees, 1.8 mil­lion were asy­lum seek­ers and 38.2 mil­lion had fled their homes but stayed in their coun­try, the re­port said.

More than half of the world’s refugees are chil­dren, up from 41 per­cent in 2009, while the to­tal num­ber of peo­ple who fled their homes has spiked by 40 per­cent in just three years.

“Things ... are get­ting out of con­trol sim­ply be­cause the world seems to be at war,” Guter­res said, stress­ing that the con­flicts in Syria and Iraq alone had forced 15 mil­lion peo­ple to flee their homes.

But they are far from the only con­flicts forc­ing peo­ple to seek safe haven. In the last five years, at least 14 con­flicts have erupted or re­sumed world­wide — more than half of them in Africa.

“We do not have the ca­pac­ity, the re­sources for all vic­tims of con­flicts. We are no longer able to pick up the pieces,” the com­mis­sioner said, adding that “im­punity and un­pre­dictabil­ity” in war seem to have be­come “the name of the game.”

Guter­res mean­while urged Euro­pean coun­tries “to keep the borders open.”

“In Europe, more than 219,000 refugees and mi­grants crossed the Mediter­ranean Sea dur­ing 2014. That’s al­most three times the pre­vi­ously known high of about 70,000, which took place in 2011,” the re­port said.

De­spite fears ex­pressed in Euro­pean coun­tries and other wealthy na­tions over the grow­ing refugee and mi­grant in­flux, the re­port showed that de­vel­op­ing coun­tries are host­ing a full 86 per­cent of all those who had fled war or per­se­cu­tion in their coun­tries.

At the end of 2014, the world’s top host for refugees was Tur­key, shel­ter­ing 1.59 mil­lion peo­ple, fol­lowed by Pak­istan (1.51 mil­lion) and Le­banon (1.15 mil­lion).

‘Un­prece­dented re­sponse

needed’

The num­ber of Syr­ian refugees tak­ing shel­ter in Tur­key has fur­ther risen this year to more than 1.7 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to the latest U.N. data, since war broke out in Syria in 2011.

The re­port said con­tin­ued tur­moil in parts of North Africa fol­low­ing the Arab Spring up­ris­ings that top­pled sev­eral dic­ta­tors saw huge num­bers risk­ing dan­ger­ous Mediter­ranean cross­ings to get to Europe.

“UNHCR has re­ceived in­for­ma­tion of over 3,500 women, men and chil­dren re­ported dead or miss­ing in the Mediter­ranean Sea dur­ing the year, clearly de­mon­strat­ing how dan­ger­ous and un­pre­dictable this sit­u­a­tion has be­come,” it said.

The Ukraine con­flict mean­while led the num­ber of refugees in Rus­sia to rise to 231,800 by the year end, up from 3,400 only 12 months ear­lier.

Ukraini­ans con­sti­tuted 98 per­cent of all refugees in Rus­sia.

In sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa, the num­ber of refugees in­creased for the fifth con­sec­u­tive year, stand­ing at 3.7 mil­lion in 2014, some 759,000 more than a year ago.

Guter­res ap­pealed to the world to loosen its purse strings and pro­vide shel­ter to those flee­ing wars and per­se­cu­tion.

“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,” he said.

Fac­ing a mas­sive in­flux of vul­ner­a­ble mi­grants and refugees risk­ing their lives to reach Europe by sea, Europe has so far failed to agree on how to deal with the thou­sands of new ar­rivals.

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