Friday, Aug. 22, 2014

6 things you should know about the world's 50 million refugees

Compiled by Amy McDonald, Deseret News National Edition

Published: Sun, June 29 5:40 a.m. MDT

 Syrian families wait to register at the UNHCR center in the northern city of Tripoli, Lebanon, in this file photo dated Wednesday, March 6, 2013.  The number of U.N.-registered refugees topped 1 million in March 2013 and half of them are known to be children, as Syrians flee from their war-ravaged country, and the United Nations refugee agency warn that Syria is heading towards a \

Syrian families wait to register at the UNHCR center in the northern city of Tripoli, Lebanon, in this file photo dated Wednesday, March 6, 2013. The number of U.N.-registered refugees topped 1 million in March 2013 and half of them are known to be children, as Syrians flee from their war-ravaged country, and the United Nations refugee agency warn that Syria is heading towards a "full-scale disaster."

(Bilal Hussein, Associated Press)

To mark World Refugee Day, the United Nations released a new report June 20 that reveals the number of refugees in the world has reached more than 50 million, the highest number since the post-World War II era.

Here's a few facts from the report and other sources about the world's displaced:

1. There are more than 50 million refugees in the world.

The U.N. High Commission for Refugees' (UNHCR) global trends report says that 51.2 million people have been "forced from their homes worldwide, including refugees, the internally displaced and asylum-seekers. That was the highest figure since the U.N. began collecting numbers in the early 1950s," the Associated Press reported.

The number of refugees "is more than the entire population of Spain, South Africa or South Korea, or more than double the population of Australia," CNN noted.

"Last year's increase in displaced people was the largest in at least two decades, driven mainly by the civil war in Syria, which has claimed an estimated 160,000 lives and forced 9 million people to flee their homes. Now Iraq is adding to that tide," AP reported.

Of the 51.2 million people displaced in 2013, 16.7 million were refugees outside their home countries, and "more than half of the refugees under UNHCR's care — 6.3 million — had been in exile for more than five years," Mashable reports.

2. Eighty-six percent of the world's refugees are being hosted by developing countries.

"The proportion of developed regions hosting the world's refugees has since diminished, while developing regions have continued to receive millions of new refugees — and during the past few years, in increasing numbers. At the end of 2013, developing regions hosted 10.1 million refugees, or 86 percent of the world's refugees (who have fled to a foreign country), the highest value for the past 22 years," the UNHCR report said.

The biggest populations of refugees were from Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria, and the countries with the highest population of refugees were Pakistan, Iran and Lebanon, according to the report.

"We are seeing here the immense costs of not ending wars, of failing to resolve or prevent conflict," U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said in a news briefing.

3. The daily lives of refugees are under the toughest of circumstances

Refugees in foreign countries, internally displaced people and asylum-seekers live in abandoned buildings, large tent communities, or with relatives under extreme conditions, the report says.

One son and his mother fled from northern Iraq after the radical al-Qaida breakaway group, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, burned down their neighboring village. They will move in with relatives, where 20 people share a single home, according to the AP report.

Asylum-seekers in Chad are living in a former meat-packing factory, where some 100 asylum-seekers from Chad, Mali and Somalia are housed. The building has only one toilet and two sources of running water. "There is no heating, no kitchen or bathing facilities, and only sporadic electricity. Former storage rooms and freezers are now used as bedrooms and the disused building is infested with rats," the UNHCR report says.

4. Half of the world's refugees are children, and families are being separated

"About 80 percent of the world's refugees are women and children, according to the U.N. and, in 2013, about half were children, the highest figure in a decade," National Geographic's Brian Clark Howard reported.

"Many of the young travel without adults, seeking help. But they frequently fall victim to human traffickers, the U.N. warns, where they are forced into labor or the sex trade," Howard wrote.

"We see a growing number of unaccompanied minors on all routes. We see them in the Mediterranean routes, we see them in the Caribbean route, through Mexico to the United States, we see them in the Afghan route into Iran, into Turkey, into Europe," Guterres told reporters. "We see them everywhere."

5. Charitable donations to geopolitical disasters are suffering

"Aid agencies have struggled to keep pace," the AP reported. "On Friday, the World Food Program, another U.N. agency, said it was forced to cut rations to refugees in several countries."

"This means that ultimately the poor, the most vulnerable, the innocent civilians who have escaped conflicts with their lives and reached refuge in a country which is at peace, they will suffer because their assistance cannot be delivered," WFP spokesman Peter Smerdon told the AP.

6. You can help.

A variety of aid organizations have ongoing programs to help relieve the suffering of refugees and displaced people.

Doctors Without Borders provides epidemic relief in the Central African Republic and health care in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Syria.

UNICEF USA has programs the help children in Syria, Iraq, Central African Republic, South Sudan.

And World Vision provides food, clean water and disease prevention in Syria, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo.

amcdonald@deseretnews

@amymcdonald89

Recommended
1. Iron Rod
Salt Lake City, UT,
June 29, 2014

You would think that the article would mention the refugee group that has suffered the longest in these modern times.

Who would that group be?

Palestinians. They are not allowed to return to their homes after fleeing the fighting 60 years ago. Why?

Israel will not allow them to return to their homes.

What's wrong with "the right of return"?

2. Brio
Alpine, UT,
June 29, 2014

Instead of spending so many financial resources focusing on just welfare assistance to these refugees, some should be diverted into training... in order to allow more of them to become self-sustaining and then consequently have the opportunity of being contributing members of their new societies rather than just takers..., which in and of itself has a negative psychological effect.

That's akin to the old adium of teaching a person to fish in order to keep feeding himself, rather than unendingly just giving out fish.
More training programs would soon cut down the need for so much direct welfare.

3. Kalindra
Salt Lake City, Utah,
June 29, 2014

@Brio

Refugees do receive more then financial resources, which only last 6 months not their whole life. Many do receive training, go to college and/or start their own businesses, your complete lack of knowledge of the refugee population does not change this reality