World Refugee Day brings bad news. For the first time since World War II, the total number of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people worldwide has surpassed 50 million.
The UNHCR reports a jump of six million, compared to 2012, to 51.2. The war in Syria contributed the most to this.
The UN refugee agency’s High Commissioner, Antonio Guterres, said: “There is a general sense of impunity. Conflicts emerge, dramatic violations of human rights appear and the international community has lost much of its capacity to prevent conflicts and solve them (in a timely way).”
Afghans are the most numerous (2.5 million) among the world’s refugees, then Syrians (2.4 million) and Somalis (1.1 million) Together; they account for more than half of the global total.
Lebanon is host to by far the greatest proportion of refugees in relation to its population: 178 refugees per 1,000 inhabitants, followed by Jordan (88), Chad (34), and Mauritania (24).
Guterres said: “The solution is political. There is only one way to stop displacement: it’s to stop conflicts; it is to find peace. And that capacity is what is lacking in today’s world.”
This also means failing to manage hunger crises in entire regions. Most of the more than 220,000 people who have fled the conflict in the Central African Republic into neighbouring countries — Chad, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo — are women and children. Many of the children are malnourished.
Refugee and mother Izungu Laris said: “We don’t have food here. There used to be enough, but there are more people now, and there’s very little food. We want food.”
The world’s refugees are outnumbered by far by internally displaced people. They are forced to flee their homes, but stay inside their own countries. The UN reckons there are 33 million of them.
All this fleeing inevitably puts a strain on resources. It can destabilise a host country. Throughout the Syrian crisis, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey have kept their borders open. There are now one million Syrian refugees in Turkey — all needing to be sheltered and fed.