A startling report released by the United Nations refugee agency exposes the magnitude of refugee crisis that haunts over 50 million people worldwide. According to the report released on June 20, UNHCR Global Trends 2013, by the end of 2013, 51.2 million individuals worldwide were forcibly displaced as a consequence of persecution, conflict, generalized violence, or human rights violations. In 2012, the number was 6 million less at 45.2 million.
This is the first time in the post-World War II era that numbers have excessed 50 million –- more than double the population of Australia. Of the 51.2 million 16.7 million are refugees, 33.3 million are internally displaced persons, and 1.2 million asylum-seekers.
This massive surge in number was driven by the continuing conflict in Syria which, at the end of 2013, had created 2.5 million refugees. The crisis also internally displaced another 6.5 million people. The persistence of conflicts in Africa, especially Central African Republic, South Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia, also added to the numbers.
However, by region, Asia and the Pacific had the largest refugee population at 3.5 million people. Sub-Saharan Africa had 2.9 million people, while the Middle East and North Africa had 2.6 million.
The reality of the refugee crisis in South Asia was also delineated in the report: Afghanistan (2.56 million) continued to be the largest source of refugees in the world, while Pakistan (1.6 million) was the biggest host.
Even as Europe and North Africa debate the merits of a restrictive immigration policy, it is the developing counties that continue to host large influxes of immigrants. According to the report, developing countries hosted 86 percent of the world’s refugees in 2013; 10% the higher than a decade ago.
The report stressed that the rising number of refugees has stretched the absorption capacities of host countries, donor community and aid agencies. In 2013, an average of 32,200 people a day fled their homes, up from 23,400 in 2012. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which provides care for 34 million refugees, has asked for more resources.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres emphasised that political solutions were vital in finding a permanent answer to this growing crisis. “Without this, the alarming levels of conflict and the mass suffering that is reflected in these figures will continue”, he added.
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