That’s because the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says that as of last year, 43.7 million people around the world have been displaced from their countries by war, conflict or persecution.
Adding insult to injury, eighty percent of those refugees fleeing the safety of their own homes are being kept safe with food, shelter and water by some of the world’s poorest nations, and UNHCR is warning that these countries cannot continue to afford this cost alone.
This past weekend António Guterres, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, spent time with the actress Angelina Jolie meeting with some of the refugees who most recently fled Libya, Tunisia, Bahrain and other Middle East nations currently experiencing internal turmoil which has forced thousands to stream across their nations borders for other countries such as Turkey and Malta.
In a statement reflecting `World Refugee Day’, Guterres says, “Fears about supposed floods of refugees in industrialized countries are being vastly overblown or mistakenly conflated with issues of migration. It’s poorer countries that are left having to pick up the burden.”
UNHCR’s 2010 Global Trends report, flags Pakistan, Iran and Syria as the world’s biggest hosts of refugees by amount of people who have fled there – totaling three million collectively that the countries have taken in; 1.9 million refugees are being housed in Pakistan alone.
And the world’s refugee populations are only expected to grow as predicted by UNHCR, next year and beyond. In 2010, the refugee agency projected that 747,000 locations places were needed to resettle the global flow of refugees, and the 22 countries that accept such displaced people, led by the United States, Canada, Australia, Sweden and Norway, took in only 98,000 people. In 2011, UNHCR estimates that 805,000 locations for refugees to be resettled will be needed.
The developed nation housing the largest refugee population is Germany, hosting 594,000 people. Guterres urged industrialized nations to increase the number of people they accept who are seeking asylum, lessening the burden on already poor and overwhelmed countries, some whom, like Syria, are going through their own internal strife and seeing its own people flee to Turkey.
Civilians fleeing the fighting in north-west Syria has picked up significantly in the last two weeks with more than 9,600 people now living in four camps managed by Turkey and the Turkish Red Crescent.
Not only are there more refugees in the world today but more people are staying in a `refugee state’ much longer than ever before. Some like those in the Palestinian territories and elsewhere spend their whole life in refugee camps.
In 2010 for instance, 7.2 million people, the highest number in ten years, had been exiled from their home countries for five years or more; mostly due to the length of the conflict they were fleeing from, which prevented people from returning to their homes. Only 197,600 refugees, were able to return to their homes in 2010, the lowest number since 1990.
UNHCR puts the official number of refugees who registered with it last year, along with the agency for Palestinian refugees at 15.4 million in 2010; with another 27.5 million people – the highest level in ten years - having been displaced by conflict within their own home countries’ borders.
--- HUMNEWS staff