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World Refugee Day: UN says climate change and Ukraine war driving up numbers

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By AP with Euronews
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People who fled the war in Ukraine inside an indoor sports stadium used as a refugee centre, at Medyka, a border crossing between Poland and Ukraine, March 15, 2022.
People who fled the war in Ukraine inside an indoor sports stadium used as a refugee centre, at Medyka, a border crossing between Poland and Ukraine, March 15, 2022.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris, File

The UN refugee agency hosted a conference in Rome on Monday with climate change and the war in Ukraine among the factors driving a sharp rise in the displacement of people around the world.

UNHCR spokesperson Carlotta Sami said 100 million people were currently displaced as part of a refugee crisis affecting every continent.

Droughts brought on by climate change and Russia's invasion of Ukraine impacting grain availability and fuel prices have threatened food security worldwide.

The conference in Rome came alongside World Refugee Day on June 20, as the agency emphasised the importance of creating safe pathways and integration policies for migrants.

Among the delegates were refugees who told their own stories.

Abdullahi Ahmed, who was elected as a councillor in the northern Italian city of Turin in 2021, told of his seven-month odyssey crossing Africa aged 19, from his home in Mogadishu, across Sudan, Ethiopia, Libya, the Mediterranean Sea to the Italian island of Lampedusa.

When Ahmed arrived, he only had the clothes on his back and a dream to help his family back home.

Ahmed is the oldest of seven children and throughout his period in Italy he has supported siblings getting medical degrees in Turkey and sending money to his family back in Mogadishu.

In 2020, he published a book about his experiences called Looking Ahead.

"I became familiar with war at three years old, I lived for 16 years in the middle of the Somali civil war, being young I had a right to build a better future, I understood it wasn't possible to do that in Somalia," Ahmed said. 

"I also had a responsibility, not openly declared, but I was the oldest child of a numerous family, so it was up to me to undertake this trip to help give a future to my brothers and sisters."

Yasmien Abdul Azeem, 33, fled the war in Syria and was living in Lebanon when she was among the first refugees chosen to participate in a humanitarian corridor to Italy in 2016.

Since then she has worked as a cultural mediator and set up a catering business serving Syrian food.

"I escaped from the war, and I lived as a refugee in Lebanon for two years. It was there that I got to know the Community of Sant'Egidio, the Humanitarian Corridors, the Evangelical Church, the Friends, they proposed that we come here and start a new life because the situation was much worse, even in Lebanon, there was crisis, political conflict, many problems," she said.