The World Refugee Day marks a key moment for the public to show support for the many millions of people who are forced to flee their homes because of war and persecution.
The number of refugees in the world has hit an all-time high. According to the UNHCR there are now 65.6 million forcibly displaced people. This includes over 40 million internally displaced people, 3 million asylum seekers and 22.5 million refugees of which 5.3 million are Palestinian refugees registered with UNRWA. More than half of the world’s refugees are children and close to 56% of the refugees have been displaced for more than five years.
It is mainly the conflicts in Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan and South Sudan that have fuelled the sharp increase in refugees. The number of displaced who have fled the war in Syria now exceeds five million with millions more displaced internally. South Sudan is the biggest refugee crisis in Africa with millions displaced within the country and 1.6 million refugees taking refuge in neighbouring countries.
Almost 86% of the refugees are hosted by developing countries in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. It is striking that ten countries – Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Lebanon, Jordan, Kenya, Ethiopia, Chad, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo – have received more than 60 % of the world’s refugees.
The UNHCR is the main international body responsible for refugees, but assistance is also provided by other UN agencies, governments, NGOs and local communities as well as individuals. Sweden is one of the major donors to the UN system and is the sixth-largest humanitarian donor in the world.
A large number of displaced people have spent most of their lives in refugee camps. A key concern is how to address protracted refugee situations and achieve an increased sharing of global responsibility. Socioeconomic conditions in camps are generally poor with cramped living conditions and poor infrastructure. Women and children are especially vulnerable
The Bidi Bidi camp in Uganda is now considered the largest refugee camp in the world. The Dadaab camp in Kenya hosts more than 300,000 Somalian refugees. Along Thailand’s border with Burma 120,000 people from Burma’s Karen minority have lived in refugee camps for more than 20 years. Less talked about are the 50,000 Malian refugees who have been living in camps in Niger for several years. However, a majority of the world’s refugees live in cities or urban environments and do not receive any form of international assistance.
Forcibly displaced people are a symptom of greater failures across the world – be it war, conflict or ethnic tension. The refugee challenge is very much a global issue and there is an urgent need to increase international support for integration and resettlement.
Refugees are defined and protected in international law. In the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, adopted on 19 September 2016, world leaders recognized the need to further strengthen global cooperation on migration and refugee situations and agreed to initiate a process that would result in a Global Compact on Refugees. This marks an ambitious step forward in demonstrating and acknowledging our shared responsibility for large movements of refugees.
The Global Compact on Refugees can, when adopted, provide an important framework for promoting greater responsibility sharing among nations as we deal with the plight of refugees.
For more on the Global Compact on Refugees, see unhcr.org
Coordinator for Migration and Refugee Issues, Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs