UN reports biggest annual refugee increase ever in 2017

World Today

MALAWI-REFUGEE-DAYA refugee walks past drying bricks in the Dzaleka Refugee camp on World Refugee Day at Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Dowa District Central region of Malawi on June 20, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Amos Gumulira)

Yemen is only one of many countries where people have been displaced by conflict.

The United Nations refugee agency says violence and persecution drove more than 25 million people from their homes last year.

That was up by nearly three million from the year before. CGTN’s Liling Tan has details.

Last year saw the biggest annual spike in refugees recorded by the UN Refugee Agency, with 2.9 million more people fleeing conflict and persecution than in the prior year. That’s a total of 25.4 million registered refugees, more than half of them were children according to the agency’s latest report.

“This is because of protracted conflicts, lack of solutions for those conflicts that continue, continued pressure on civilians in countries of conflict that push them to leave their homes, and newer or aggravating crises as well like the Rohingya crisis,” explained the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.

By the end of 2017, the number of Rohingya refugees fleeing violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state had more than doubled from half a million at the start of the year to 1.2 million.

In South Sudan, it was a civil war in the world’s youngest nation that drove the largest annual increase in refugees, up by one million.

In the Middle East, the Syrian refugee population grew 14 percent to 6.3 million, while nearly five and a half million Palestinian refugees registered with the UN Relief and Works Agency, known as UNRWA.

Also of growing concern are hotspots including in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, Yemen, and Venezuela.

All these situations have raised the need for more burden-sharing among the international community and fueled a bigger demand to assist host countries.

But the UN Refugee Agency says support has been mixed, and its funding appeal of eight billion dollars for this year is only 14 percent met.

Efforts to accept and resettle refugees have also been complicated by the perception of an outsized influx of refugees into western states.

“In 2015, the world refugee situation made it on the front page of newspapers around the world,” said Ninette Kelley, director of the UN Refugee office in New York Office. “Why is that? It’s because there were refugees that were arriving in Europe in greater numbers than there have been before.

“But even on an objective count, that number was far outstripped by the number of refugees in the developing world, which housed 85 percent of all refugees,” Kelley continued. “So there is a lack of perspective when it comes to the Western world and the refugee problem. The weight is really being carried by low and middle-income countries rather than the West.”

The refugee situation, however, is only a fraction of the total number of people displaced by conflict and persecution last year.

If we include people who fled their homes but remained within their country, then we’re now looking at 68 and a half million people uprooted by fear and violence.