World’s refugee crisis continues to grow, UN says
DUBAI // More than 51 million people became refugees, asylum seekers or were displaced inside their own countries by the end of last year.
An annual United Nations report released to mark World Refugee Day on Friday found wars and conflicts to be the cause for the high levels of displacement. The numbers represent at least a six million increase since 2012.
Even as numbers continue to rise, the UAE announced it had given Dh2.6 billion in aid to refugees from 71 countries since 2009. Of this, Government aid alone accounted for Dh1.29 billion, followed by Dh562 million from the UAE’s Red Crescent.
Humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees from 2012 until this month touched Dh502.2 million, the Ministry of International Cooperation and Aid (Micad) said in its report.
UN agencies, however, said more still needs to be done to mitigate conflicts.
“The international community must overcome its differences and find solutions to prevent conflict,” said Mohammed Abu Asaker, a communications officer at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Abu Dhabi.
“Humanitarian help is palliative and not a cure,” he said at a briefing on Thursday, before the Global Trends Report’s official launch in Geneva on Friday.
The agency said the protracted civil war in Syria, which forced 2.5 million people to flee the country and displaced another 6.5 million within Syria, was the cause for the huge increase in refugees. The conflicts in Africa, notably the Central African Republic and South Sudan, also led to a large number of people fleeing their homes. UN officials said the rising human cost was having a huge impact on host countries and international donors.
“The international community has to overcome its differences and find solutions to the conflicts in South Sudan, Syria, Central African Republic and elsewhere,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, in Geneva.
“Non-traditional donors need to step up alongside traditional donors. As many people are forcibly displaced today as the entire populations of medium-to-large countries such as Colombia or Spain.”
Afghans, Syrians and Somalis were the largest refugee groups and together accounted for more than half the global refugee total.
Pakistan, Iran and Lebanon, on the other hand, hosted more refugees than other countries.
The UN refugee agency said by region, Asia and the Pacific had the largest refugee population overall at 3.5 million people. Sub-Saharan Africa had 2.9 million people, while the Middle East and North Africa had 2.6 million.
Apart from existing numbers, an additional 1.1 million people applied for asylum last year. A record 25,300 asylum applications were from children who were separated from or unaccompanied by parents. Syrians lodged 64,300 claims, more than any other nationality, followed by asylum seekers from Democratic Republic of Congo and Myanmar.
UN agencies said the situation was becoming worse as renewed violence in Iraq had driven half a million people from their homes.
“The world already faces three crises of devastating proportions that have turned millions of schoolchildren, farmers and shopkeepers into refugees,” said Ertharin Cousin, the executive director of UN’s World Food Programme.
“As Iraq now violently unravels, the world needs to remember that conflicts like Iraq, Syria, South Sudan and Central African Republic not only destroy the lives of those who flee but also deplete the often limited resources of host communities who take them in.”
Updated: June 21, 2014 04:00 AM