The number of refugees globally has shot up to 65.3 million, a new report has revealed.
According to the UNHCR’s Global Trends Report 2015, forced displacement has continued to affect an ever-increasing number of people reaching 65.3 million.
While the rate of increase has decreased comparatively to the sharp rises of the past half a decade, the current number of displaced is nonetheless the highest since the aftermath of the Second World War.
“We are facing the biggest refugee and displacement crisis of our time. Above all this is not just a crisis of numbers it is also a crisis of solidarity.” Said Ban Ki Moon, United Nations Secretary General.
The UNHCR has announced a yearly record of sharp increase of displaced persons globally since 2011 through 2014, 42.5 million, 45.2 million, 51.2 million and 59.5 million respectively. A calculated increase of 50 per cent in five years.
While at the same period the number of internally Displaced persons IDPs protected or assisted by UNHCR stood at 52.4 million compared to 46.7 million in the previous year.
To put this figures into perspective the global population of displaced persons currently is larger than the population of the East African countries put together. Syria holds the leading number for the most populated at 11.5 million.
According to the United Nations, the top 10 countries hosting the largest population remains to be the developing countries, five among them are in the Sub-saharan Africa. While Turkey continues to lead with over 2.5 million refugees followed by Pakistan with a figure of 1.6 million refugees. Despite a receding number of refugees in Lebanon due to verification and de-registration processes, it continues to tower as the third largest refugee hosting country. Therefore Lebanon hosts more refugees compared to its population size than any other country, with 209 refugees per 1000 inhabitants.
Ethiopia registered a refugee population of 736,100 most being from the neighboring Somalia and South Sudan. Making it the largest refugee population in the sub-Saharan African region. Economically Ethiopia pays most in relation to the size of its economy with 469 refugees for every dollar of GDP (per capita, at PPP).
The Jordan refugee camp built in nine days to host only 80,000 has continue to swell to over 664,100 refugees. While Kenya’s famous Dadaab refugee camp built over 25 years ago continues to host over 600,000 refugees from Somalia and Southern Sudan. Recently, the Government of Kenya announced that it is closing down the camp as it seeks to protect its porous border from terrorists faking as refugees.
Uganda adversely affected by civil strife from three neighboring countries namely Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. Causing an exponential refugee population of 477,200 making it the 8th largest refugee population in the world.
Congolese government registered Rwandese refugees residing since mid-1990s as well as from Burundi and the Central African Republic to over 383,100 refugees making the Democratic Republic of Congo the 9th largest refugee country. Meanwhile Chad hosting refugees from Sudan and Central African Republic at 369,500 refugees. The top 10 refugee-hosting countries combined accounted for 58 per cent a population of 9.3 million refugees of the global refugee population under UNHCR’s mandate.
With 4.9 million refugees residing in 120 countries worldwide, Syria remains the largest source of refugees. Majority of this being hosted by the neighboring countries Turkey at 2.5 million Lebanon 1.1 million, Jordan 628,200 Iraq 244,600 and Egypt 117,600. Other major host countries of Syrian refugees outside the immediate region are Germany 115,600 and Sweden 52,700 according to the UNHCR.
The Afghan refugee population worldwide was estimated at 2.7 million by the end of 2015 according to UNHCR. Therefore making Afghanistan the second largest source of refugee. The majority of the Afghan refugees resided in Pakistan at 1.6 million, Islamic Republic of Iran 951,100 in addition to Germany 30,000, Austria 17,500 Sweden 13,100, Italy 12,200 and India 10,200.
Somalia remained the third largest refugee source at 1.12 million while Kenya and Ethiopia continue hosting the largest numbers of refugees from Somalia at 417,900 refugees and 256,700 refugees respectively. Overall, the lion’s share of the global responsibility for hosting refugees continues to be carried by countries immediately bordering zones of conflict, many of them in the developing world.
Beyond the headline numbers, the report shows worsening indicators in several key areas. Voluntary return rates – a measure of how many refugees can safely go back home and a barometer of the global state of conflict – are at their lowest levels in over three decades (an estimated 84,000 people compared to 107,000 in the same period a year ago). In effect, if you become a refugee today your chances of going home are lower than at any time in more than 30 years.
A consequence of more refugees being stuck in exile is that pressures on countries hosting them are growing too – something which can’t be controlled can increase resentment and abet politicization of refugees. Refugees worldwide live at the mercy of their host country and the relationship, as it is here, is often marred by xenophobia or racism and complicated by the politics of a brutal civil war, or lives crushed by poverty.
Faced with bleak futures in the camps, hundreds of thousands have decided to take their chances, opting to pay smugglers and board overloaded boats to cross the Mediterranean, now considered the world’s most dangerous border crossing.
“At sea, a frightening number of refugees and migrants are dying each year. On land, people fleeing war are finding their way blocked by closed borders.” UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.
In June last year, Amnesty International reported that “the global refugee crisis will not be solved unless the international community recognizes that it is a global problem and deals with it as such.” This followed by horrifying deaths of 71 refugees in an abandoned truck in Austria and the haunting image of 3-year-old Alan Kurdi on a beach in Turkey riveted the world and moved many to action.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her country would take hundreds of thousands of refugees annually for years to come. Border rules were eased, allowing thousands of Syrians to seek refuge in Germany.
But her swift action was met with an equally swift backlash. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban denounced the surge of refugees crossing into his country from the Balkans, accusing them of having “rebelled against Hungarian legal order.” Border controls in Europe were reinstated and an emergency effort led by Germany to mandate refugee quotas for EU states collapsed.
Earlier this year, Al Shabaab attacked Garissa University College, about 60 kilometers from the refugee camp. It was Kenya’s worst terrorist attack in more than two decades, with dozens wounded and 148 students killed. “The way America changed after 9/11 is the way Kenya will change after Garissa… We must secure this country at whatever cost,” said Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto.
Following a string of terror attacks in Kenya, the Kenyan Government resorted to closing Dadaab refugee camp as a deterrent to future attacks. An accusation that holds no ground as it emerged clearly the attackers where radicalized Kenyans. One of them being the son of a Kenyan government official. Even with immense international pressure, Kenya did not rescind on its plans of closure.
Speaking at the world humanitarian summit in Istanbul, Ruto said Kenya was sticking to its plan, and was now aiming to expel refugees within six months. The Deputy President went ahead to call on developed countries to settle these refugees in their countries or as an alternative to resettlement he suggested the mount a huge development program in Somalia for the refugees to have an economic activity back at home.
After all said and nothing is done the refugees’ lives remain in limbo as civil strife underscores their precarious position they live in the host countries that no longer are willing to give them any economic activity rather than handouts of rationed food while the talks of camp closure and resettlement. During the world humanitarian summit in Istanbul, delegates broadly agreed that refugee crises should be viewed as drawn-out challenges that require long-term development response, rather than knee-jerk reaction coupled with aid hand-outs.