June 20 is the day the world celebrates the vigour, courage and perseverance of millions of people who are either forced to leave their homes and live in exile or stay behind and wait for their loved ones to come back.
It’s the World Refugee Day – a day to not only show support for refugees worldwide in their time of greatest need, but a day of resistance.
Yesterday, we commemorated this year’s World Refugee Day, and on the occasion, the United Nations Human Rights Council released a report – Global Trends: Forced Displacement In 2016 – on the number of people displaced in 2016.
65.6 million forcibly displaced worldwide: Global refugee population is highest on record
By the end of 2016, 65.6 million individuals were forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, or human rights violations. That was an increase of 300,000 people over the previous year, and the world’s forcibly displaced population remained at a record high, revealed the data published by UNHCR.
Out of the 65.6 million people, 22.5 are refugees.
During last year, 10.3 people were newly displaced as a result of conflict or persecution – this number is inclusive of the 6.9 million persons displaced within the borders of their own countries and the 3.4 million new refugees and asylum-seekers.
Among the report’s key findings, is that new displacement, in particular, remains very high. Of the 65.6 million people forcibly displaced globally, 10.3 million became displaced in 2016, about two-thirds of them (6.9 million) fleeing within their own countries. This equates to one person becoming displaced every 3 seconds – less than the time it takes to read this sentence.
The high number of displaced people adds up to an immense human cost of war and persecution globally – 65.6 million means that on average one in every 113 people worldwide is today someone who is displaced.
Children below 18 years of age constituted about half of the refugee population (22.5) in 2016. About 75,000 refugee children were unaccompanied or separated.
More than half of the refugees worldwide came from just three countries
Syrians continued to be the largest forcibly displaced population, with 12 million people at the end of 2016; that included 5.5 million refugees. With 650 out of every 1,000 people forcibly displaced, Syria is the only country in which the experience of forced displacement now affects the majority of the population.
Though Afghanistan has the second largest refugee population, Colombians were the second-largest group in terms of the number of people displaced – 7.7 million forcibly displaced, mostly inside their country.
The fastest-growing refugee population originated from South Sudan – 259 people forcibly displaced per 1,000. This group grew by 64 per cent during the second half of 2016 from 854,100 to over 1.4 million, the majority of whom were children. There are 3.3 people displaced in the country, out of which 1.4 million are refugees.
Other large displaced populations at the end of 2016 – those with over 2 million people displaced, either internally or as refugees or asylum-seekers – were from Iraq (4.2 million), Sudan (2.9 million), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (2.9 million), Somalia (2.6 million) – 238 people forcibly displaced per 1,000 – Nigeria (2.5 million), Ukraine (2.1 million), and Yemen (2.1 million).
Reasons for refugee crisis
War, persecution and human rights violation remain the primary reasons behind the global refugee crisis. Most people who flee their homes to escape oppression or poverty, use boats to travel to a foreign land. This often risks their lives on overcrowded boats.
On World Refugee Day, June 20, the UNHCR reported three new shipwrecks in the Mediterranean Sea, fearing at least 130 people are dead or missing.
In Sudan, the refugee crisis is due to the ongoing civil war and military conflicts at home. The country with the fastest growing refugee population – South Sudan (the world’s youngest independent country) – is witnessing refugee crisis due to the South Sudanese Civil War which began in 2013.
The causes of displacement in Somalia includes internal armed violence, diverted aid flows and natural disasters. In Nigeria, the reason for displacement is the atrocities by the terrorist group Boko Haram.
In Syria, the civil war and the terrorist group ISIS are the primary reasons for the country to contribute the maximum number of refugees to the world. The causes of refugees in Afghanistan are the 1979 Soviet invasion of the country which displaced 2 million people and the Afghan civil war (1992-96) which further displaced people internally. The terrorist group Taliban is another major reason for Afghans to flee into neighbouring countries.
The countries that have hosted the maximum refugees
Developing regions continued to share a disproportionately large responsibility for hosting refugees. Nine of the top 10 refugee-hosting countries were in developing regions, according to the United Nations Statistics Division Classification.
As in 2015, Turkey was the country hosting the largest refugee population, with 2.9 million refugees at the end of 2016, up from 2.5 million in December 2015. The vast majority of refugees in Turkey were from Syria – more than 2.8 million Syrian refugees represented more than 98% of the entire refugee population in Turkey.
Pakistan had the second-largest refugee population, despite declining numbers mainly through refugee returns. The refugee population in Lebanon also reduced slightly, mainly due to data reconciliation, deregistration, and departures for resettlement. However, Lebanon still hosted just over 1.0 million refugees at the end of 2016, compared with just under 1.1 million in 2015.
Solutions by UNHCR
Voluntary Repatriation: According to UNHCR, refugees returning to their home country remains the most durable solution to fight the crisis. The number of refugees returning to their countries of origin substantially increased during 2016, more than doubling to 552,200 from 201,400 in 2015, the highest figure since 2008. Pakistan reported the largest number of repatriating refugees with 381,300 departures, all to Afghanistan.
Resettlement: Refugees may have sought protection in countries where their specific needs could not be met or where they were at risk. In these circumstances, UNHCR helps to resettle refugees in a third country, transferring them from a country of asylum to another country that has agreed to admit them as refugees and ultimately grant them permanent residence.
During 2016, the total number of refugees admitted for resettlement stood at 189,300, according to government statistics. This is a 77% increase from the 107,100 reported in 2015). Of the resettlement countries that received refugees during 2016, the United States of America admitted 51% (96,900). Other countries that resettled large numbers of refugees in 2016 included Canada (46,700) and Australia (27,600). Syrian refugees were the largest population benefiting from resettlement (63,000 people), followed by those from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (22,100), Iraq (14,700), and Somalia (12,200).
Local Integration: Refugees may also be locally integrated as a durable solution. This is a complex and gradual process that involves a refugee finding a permanent home in the country of asylum and integrating into the community there.
The number of refugees being locally integrated into another has declined. During 2016, 23 countries reported at least one naturalisation of a refugee, compared with 28 the previous year. A total of 23,000 refugee naturalisations were reported to UNHCR in 2016, compared with 32,000 the previous year. Canada reported the largest such number, with 16,300 naturalisations, although this was considerably lower than the 25,900 naturalisations it reported in 2015.
You can read the full report here.