Russia's war in Ukraine has displaced more than 14 million Ukrainians, says Filippo Grandi

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By AP
Natalia Pototska, 43, cries as her grandson Matviy looks on in a car at a center for displaced people in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine.
Natalia Pototska, 43, cries as her grandson Matviy looks on in a car at a center for displaced people in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine.   -   Copyright  AP

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has driven some 14 million Ukrainians from their homes in “the fastest, largest displacement witnessed in decades”, says the UN's refugee chief.

It means the number of refugees and displaced people worldwide has increased to more than 103 million, Filippo Grandi told the UN Security Council. 

Grandi, head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said Ukrainians are about to face “one of the world’s harshest winters in extremely difficult circumstances”.

He said it included the continuing destruction of civilian infrastructure that is “quickly making the humanitarian response look like a drop in the ocean of needs”.

Humanitarian organisations have “dramatically scaled up their response,” he said, “but much more must be done, starting with an end to this senseless war”.

But given “the likely protracted nature of the military situation,” Grandi said his agency is preparing for further population movements both inside and outside Ukraine.

In his wide-ranging briefing, Grandi said that while Ukraine continues to grab headlines, his agency has responded to 37 emergencies around the world in the last 12 months arising from conflicts.

“Yet, the other crises are failing to capture the same international attention, outrage, resources, action,” he said.

Grandi pointed to the more than 850,000 Ethiopians displaced in the first half of the year, and said the recent surge in the conflict in northern Tigray  has had “an even more devastating impact on civilians.”

The UN refugee agency is also in Myanmar, where the country’s military rulers are facing armed resistance and an estimated 500,000 people were displaced in the first half of the year, Grandi said.

Humanitarian access remains “a huge challenge,” he said, adding that a return home remains distant for the almost 1 million Rohingya Muslim refugees who fled from Myanmar to neighbouring Bangladesh.

In Congo, brutal attacks including sexual violence against women have added more than 200,000 people to the 5.5 million already displaced in the country, Grandi said.

He lamented that “the horrors” he witnessed when he worked in Congo 25 years ago are repeating themselves, “with displacement being, once again, both a consequence of conflict and a complicating factor in the web of local and international tensions.”

Addressing a council responsible for ensuring international peace and security, Grandi said: “Surely we can do better in trying to bring peace to this beleaguered region.”

The refugee chief said these crises and others, including the longstanding issue of refugees from Afghanistan and Syria and the complex flow of migrants from the Americas, “are not only fading from media attention but are being failed by global inaction.”

Reasons for displacement are also becoming more complex, with new factors forcing people to flee including the climate emergency, Grandi said.

He urged greater attention and much greater financing for preventing and adapting to the warming planet, warning that otherwise tensions and competition will grow “and spark wider conflict with deadly consequences, including displacement.

“And what is a starker example of `loss and damage’ than being displaced and dispossessed from one’s home?” he asked.

And he expressed hope that this month’s UN summit on climate change in Egypt and the summit in the United Arab Emirates next year will consider both climate’s link to conflict and the displacement it causes.

But Grandi said this is not enough. He said the UN refugee agency needs $700 million [€715 million] by the end of the year to avoid severe cuts in its services.