Recent global violence creates worst refugee crisis since WW 2

The number of people displaced by violent conflict hit the highest level since World War II at the end of 2013, the head of the United Nations refugee agency, António Guterres, said in a report released on Friday, warning, “Peace is dangerously in deficit.” http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/21/world/refugees-at-levels-not-seen-since-second-world-war.html?ref=world&_r=1
Pushed up dramatically by the war in Syria, the total number of people displaced by violence reached more than 51 million at the end of 2013, according to the agency’s annual Global Trends report. This included 33.3 million people who fled violence but remained in their own country and 16.7 million refugees who fled to neighboring countries, it said.
“We are not facing an increasing trend, we are really facing a quantum leap,” Mr. Guterres told reporters in Geneva, noting that close to 11 million people were newly displaced in 2013. Half the world’s population of displaced people are children, he added, the highest level in a decade.
“There is no humanitarian response able to solve the problems of so many people,” he warned. “It’s becoming more and more difficult to find the capacity and resources to deal with so many people in such tragic circumstances.”
The number of refugees who had fled across borders by the end of 2013 was a fraction of the tens of millions of refugees left at the end of World War II and lower even than in 1993, when conflicts in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Mozambique swelled the global refugee population to over 16 million, refugee agency records show.
But when combined with those fleeing to other places within their own countries to escape violence, the total number of displaced people reached a level unprecedented since the war, said Adrian Edwards, a spokesman for the refugee agency.
The agency looked at records from the wars in Korea, the Middle East, Vietnam and southern Asia and found that “none had comparable levels of displacement” with what the agency is now reporting, Mr. Edwards said.
Alexander Betts, a professor of refugee studies at Oxford University, said in a telephone interview, “It’s certainly an unprecedented number since the end of World War II.” He added that the total reflected shifts in the patterns of conflict and in counting methodologies. In the postwar and Cold War years, when conflicts were largely between states, international agencies counted as refugees only those fleeing across borders.
Internally displaced populations were not counted until the early 1990s, when the United Nations refugee agency recognized them as an area of concern. Until 2005, the number of internally displaced hovered around the five million mark, agency records show. But it has risen dramatically with a sharp escalation of internal insurgencies in this century.
Africa, which with Syria accounts for most of the world’s internally displaced, had more continuing conflicts in 2012 than at any other time since World War II, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center in Geneva reported last year. The number more than doubled in four years, from 15 million people in 2009 to more than 33 million in 2013.
Conflicts this year in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Ukraine and now Iraq threaten to push levels of displacement even higher by the end of 2014, Mr. Guterres said.
“The international community today has very limited capacity to prevent conflicts and to find timely solutions,” Mr. Guterres said. “We see the Security Council paralyzed in many crucial crises.”
To make matters worse, the consequences of past conflicts “never seem to die,” Mr. Guterres said. Over six million people have been in exile for five years or more, and the number of refugees returning to their countries in 2013, 414,000, was one of the lowest in years, the refugee agency reported. Just 98,400 people were taken in for resettlement by other countries.
In addition to refugees, more than 1.1 million people applied for asylum in 2013, the highest number in a decade, Mr. Guterres reported.
He was quick to puncture any illusion that developed countries of the North were hosting most of the world’s refugees, despite mounting anxiety in Western countries over the flow of migrants to their shores. “The truth is that 86 percent of the world’s refugees are living in developing
countries,” he said, a much higher proportion than 10 years ago. “The trend is not only to have more and more refugees but more and more refugees in the developing world.”

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