Prob­lem­goes­glob­alas

The plight of Syr­ian refugees may be dom­i­nat­ing the news, but with the num­ber of dis­placed peo­ple hit­ting record lev­els, it’s just the tip of the iceberg ANAL­Y­SIS

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY TIM MAR­SHALL

THERE HAVE al­ways been mass move­ments of peo­ple — think of the forced de­por­ta­tions from Is­rael to Baby­lon, or the two-way ex­o­dus be­tween Pak­istan and In­dia in 1948 — but there has never been any­thing ap­proach­ing the scale of what is hap­pen­ing now.

For ev­ery 122 hu­mans on the planet, one is a refugee, dis­placed from their home, or seek­ing asy­lum. They to­tal al­most the en­tire pop­u­la­tion of Italy, which at 60 mil­lion is the 23rd most pop­u­lous coun­try in the world.

What causes peo­ple to leave their homes has al­ways been war, famine, drought, and lack of work. What is dif­fer­ent now is that the mas­sive in­crease in pop­u­la­tion growth has been ac­com­pa­nied by ad­vances in trans­port, and is now joined by the revo­lu­tion in tech­nol­ogy com­mu­ni­ca­tion. The re­sult — the great­est move­ment of peo­ples in history.

The fig­ures from the UNHCR Global Trends re­port from June this year show the scale of the prob­lem in 2014. Be­hind each statis­tic is a story, al­ways of hope, of­ten of des­per­a­tion, and fre­quently of tragedy. The fig­ures for 2015 will be even higher, es­pe­cially con­cern­ing the Mid­dle East and move­ment to­wards Europe.

The south has been mov­ing north for decades now, a norm that has ac­cel­er­ated with the tur­moil in the Mid­dle East, but this is a global prob­lem.

Last year, 2014, was a record. There were 59.5 mil­lion forcibly dis­placed peo­ple. This com­pares with 51.2 mil­lion in 2013. This is the big­gest jump in num­bers ever recorded, and half the peo­ple in­volved were chil­dren. Ten years ago the to­tal fig­ure was 37.5 mil­lion.

Last year’s un­prece­dented rise was mainly down to the war in Syria. From there wave af­ter wave of peo­ple have fled. The flow gains strength rel­a­tive to the level and area of the fight­ing. From Syria (if we in­clude 2015), four mil­lion peo­ple have poured into Jor­dan, Le­banon and Tur­key. From th­ese coun­tries, many have moved north-west into Europe fol­low­ing the now well-beaten, yet per­ilous path through Tur­key, across the sea, and up through Italy and the Balkans.

An­other 7.6 mil­lion peo­ple are dis­placed in­side Syria and at least 250,000 have died. All this from a pre-civil war pop­u­la­tion of 22 mil­lion. Half of all Syr­i­ans are no longer in their homes.

Af­ter Syria the big­gest flow of peo­ple has been from or within Afghanistan, 2.5 mil­lion, and So­ma­lia, 1.1 mil­lion.

The past few years have shown how new tech­nol­ogy, in­clud­ing mo­bile phones and GPS, has al­lowed refugees and mi­grants to stay in touch with each other to plot a course to a new life and then pass in­for­ma­tion on to fam­ily and friends.

Violence is the big­gest driver of move­ment. In the past five years we have seen 15 con­flicts ei­ther be­gin or con­tinue. Among them, in Africa, are wars in Mali, Cen­tral African Repub­lic, and Su­dan.

Di­plo­mats at the United Na­tions are now openly speak­ing about the pos­si­bil­ity of geno­cide in Bu­rundi where be­tween 1993 and 2005 300,000 died. In the past four months 200,000 have fled.

Among the most over­looked of the mul­ti­ple tragedies around the world is the sit­u­a­tion in the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo. Al­most six mil­lion peo­ple have died in con­flict-re­lated events there since war broke out in 1993. Re­newed fight­ing this year has dis­placed an­other one mil­lion.

In the wider Mid­dle East, as well as Syria, we see con­flict in Libya, Egypt, Iraq, and Ye­men. Con­flict in Kyr­gyzs­tan and Pak­istan is dis­plac­ing peo­ple from there, while the plight of the Ro­hingya Mus­lims in Burma is adding to the ris­ing fig­ures in south-east Asia.

In Europe, war in Ukraine has left 275,000 peo­ple dis­placed in­side the coun­try and more than 250,000 leav­ing, mostly for Rus­sia, which re­ceived a record num­ber of asy­lum claims.

As the UN’s High Com­mis­sioner for Refugees, An­to­nio Guter­res, puts it: “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.”

And where do all th­ese peo­ple go? Tur­key hosts the most, 1.6 mil­lion, and ris­ing. Iran and Pak­istan are among the coun­tries shoul­der­ing a dis­pro­por­tion­ate amount of the bur­den par­tially due to the now decades-long con­flict in Afghanistan.

How­ever, the ex­o­dus from Syria means it has over­taken Afghanistan as the world top source of refugees. Le­banon and Jor­dan are also creak­ing un­der the im­mense strain of so many peo­ple re­quir­ing help.

In­side the Euro­pean Union zone Ger­many is re­ceiv­ing both the most peo­ple, and the most asy­lum re­quests. In 2014, 202,000 peo­ple ap­plied, a 160 per cent in­crease from 2012. Swe­den recorded 81,000 ap­pli­ca­tions, Italy, 64,000, France, 64,000, Hun­gary, 42,000 and the UK, 32,000. Of those ap­ply­ing in the UK, the big­gest per­cent­age were from Eritrea (3,568), Pak­istan (2,302), and Syria (2,204).

Al­ready in 2015 the ap­pli­ca­tions in Ger­many have risen to above 331,000 and in Hun­gary to 143,000.

Con­cern­ing the ori­gins of peo­ple making ap­pli­ca­tions, Koso­vans were third in the list and Al­ba­ni­ans fifth de­spite their not be­ing in­volved in con- flict. This has led to moves within the EU to say that those from Balkan coun­tries will not be granted asy­lum.

The fig­ures re­flect the route the mi­grants take, the state of the econo-

Last year sawthe big­gest jumpin num­ber­sof dis­placed­peo­ple ev­er­recorded

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