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One out of every 113 people on the planet is displaced or a refugee

It’s World Refugee Day today. This is the first time the threshold of 60 million has been crossed.

Syrian refugee children chant slogans behind a fence at the Nizip refugee camp in Gaziantep province
Syrian refugee children chant slogans behind a fence at the Nizip refugee camp in Gaziantep province
Image: AP/Press Association Images

THE NUMBER OF refugees and others fleeing their homes worldwide has hit a new record, spiking to 65.3 million people by the end of 2015.

Europe’s high-profile migrant crisis, which is its worst since World War II, is just one part of a growing tide of human misery led by Palestinians, Syrians and Afghans.

Globally, approaching 1% of humanity has been forced to flee.

“This is the first time that the threshold of 60 million has been crossed,” the UN refugee agency said.

The Immigrant Council of Ireland said today that it is time for the Irish government to “follow the will of the people by taking action”.

It called on the government to:

  • Set out a timeline for the arrival of 4,000 refugees into Ireland, with an integration plan
  • On the issue of trafficking of children for sexual exploitation, enact the Sexual Offences Bill so that Ireland isn’t seen as  ”soft target” by traffickers.

The UNHCR and Sports Against Racism Ireland (SARI) will hold the seventh annual Fair Play Football Cup today to mark World Refugee Day, with over 16 teams representing Ireland’s immigrant and refugee communities taking part.

Pressures

The Week In Mideast Photos Syrian refugee children wait to enter their classroom at a non-formal school, built b Source: Hassan Ammar

The new figures, released on World Refugee Day, underscore twin pressures fuelling an unprecedented global displacement crisis.

As conflict and persecution force growing numbers of people to flee, anti-migrant political sentiment has strained the will to resettle refugees, said UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi.

The willingness of nations to work together not just for refugees but for the collective human interest is what’s being tested today.

The number of people displaced globally rose by 5.8 million through 2015, according to the UN figures.

Counting Earth’s population at 7.349 billion, the UN said that one out of every 113 people on the planet was now either internally displaced or a refugee.

They now number more than the populations of Britain or France, the agency said, adding that it is “a level of risk for which UNHCR knows no precedent.”

Numbers are rising

Displacement figures have been rising since the mid 1990s, but the rate of increase has jumped since the outbreak of Syria’s civil war in 2011.

Of the planet’s 65.3 million displaced, 40.8 million remain within their own country, while 21.3 million have fled across borders and are now refugees.

Palestinians are the largest group of refugees at more than five million, including those who fled at the creation of Israel in 1948 and their descendants.

Syria is next on the list, with 4.9 million refugees, followed by Afghanistan (2.7 million) and Somalia (1.1 million).

Rising conflict, shrinking solutions

Mideast Lebanon Netherlands Syrian refugee children look out from their tent Source: Mohammed Zaatari

A worrying mixture of factors have led to rising displacement and narrowing space for refugee resettlement.

“Situations that cause large refugee outflows are lasting longer,” the agency said, including more than 30 years of unrest in both Somalia and Afghanistan.

New and intense conflicts as well as dormant crises that have been “reignited” are further fuelling the crisis, UNHCR said, pointing to South Sudan, Yemen, Burundi and the Central African Republic, aside from Syria.

Beyond the refugee hotspots in the Middle East and Africa, UNHCR said there were also worrying signs in Central America, where growing numbers of people fleeing gang violence led to a 17% rise in those leaving their homes through 2015.

Faced with a growing need to resettle those facing persecution, the answers are not always obvious.

Mideast Iraq Source: Hadi Mizban

“The rate at which solutions are being found for refugees and internally displaced people has been on a falling trend since the end of the Cold War,” the UN agency said.

Jan Egeland, head of the Norwegian Refugee Council and a senior UN diplomat, said refugees “are the victims of a general paralysis” among nations who are not meeting their responsibilities to the world’s neediest.

Turkey — which struck a controversial deal with the European Union in March to stem Europe’s migrant crisis — hosted the highest number of refugees through 2015 at 2.5 million, mostly Syrians.

Germany received the highest number of asylum requests (441,900) over the 12-month span, demonstrating the country’s “readiness to receive people who were fleeing to Europe via the Mediterranean.”

- © AFP, 2016 - With reporting from Aoife Barry

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