Forced Displacement’s Involuntary Toll Tally

The UN Refugee agency released its annual report on global relocation due to war and persecution, with the total rising to 65 million, one-third refugees crossing borders and the majority internally displaced within their own countries. Last year 10 million were newly uprooted, and half of refugees are children and 85 percent are in the developing world. The Syria conflict is the biggest contributor with 5.5 million citizens fleeing, followed by Afghanistan and South Sudan respectively at 2.5 million and 1.5 million. Lebanon hosts the highest portion in per capita and Turkey in absolute terms, and 2 million asylum claims were filed and 190,000 refugees resettled in 2016, half in the US before the Trump administration’s proposed stricter limits. The number on the move has doubled in twenty years mainly due to Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa unrest. After Syria’s 12 million Columbia has the most displaced with over 7.5 million and Nigeria, Ukraine, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Yemen also range from 2-3 million. South Sudan’s exodus was particularly pronounced last year with spillover into neighboring poor countries like Uganda. The 22 million refugees include 5 million Palestinians under the UNHCR’s longstanding mandate, and they increased 1 million globally. Africa had a 15 percent jump and Turkey now has received 500,000 more Syrians than all of Europe’s 2.3 million, and also has 15,000 exiles from Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia. Pakistan has 1.5 million Afghanis; Lebanon 1 million Syrians and Uganda 650,000 South Sudanese. Jordan has taken in 650,000 from Syria, almost double the influx into Germany. Kenya has the tenth biggest refugee cohort of 450,000 chiefly from Somalia. In Asia almost 500,000 Rohingya left Myanmar as of last year, with half staying in Bangladesh and 100,000 each going to Malaysia and Thailand. Low and middle-income economies disproportionately accommodate inflows, with “least developed” Cameroon, Chad, Ethiopia and Sudan among others with 5 percent of the world total. Two-thirds are in “protracted” stays of five years-plus and 4 million have been way for an average 20 years, according to the UN data.

Last September’s General Assembly summit emphasized durable solutions, including voluntary repatriation, third-country resettlement and local integration, but they have been “inadequate” and left large swathes in “precarious” position. Returnees with official assistance are less than 5 percent, and the US, Australia and the UK are now tightening entry programs while Canada continues its welcome. Legal status through naturalization extended to just 25,000 in 2016, with France, Belgium and Austria boosting designations. Labor and education are improving as “complementary pathways” but domestic competition and lack of capacity continue as long-term obstacles. Libya and the Philippines had 450,000 and 250,000 respective internal returnees despite strife, which has since worsened and is likely to reignite escape. Almost 3 million sought asylum, and while Afghan, Iraqi and Syrian applications comprised 70 percent in the US half came from Mexico and Central America including Venezuela. Italy received almost 50,000 claims from Nigeria, Gambia, Senegal and Eritrea.  France, Greece, Sweden and South Africa also processed large amounts and 900,000 were approved overall with Germany alone rendering 600,000 decisions. Another 3 million people are formally “stateless” and of the 17 million refugees outside the Palestinian saga half have private shelter, and 4.5 million are in managed or self-designed camps which may not displace anger and fear, the report suggests.