More people were displaced last year than at any time since UN records began
One in every 113 people on earth was forcibly displaced in 2015, a fourfold increase from 2005, according to new research published by the the UN’s refugee agency to mark World Refugee Day.
The total of 63.5 million refugees represents a significant increase on 2014 total of 59.5 million. It’s the first time in UNHCR’s history that the number has exceeded 60 million — meaning that the world’s displaced population is now greater than the population of the United Kingdom.
“More people are being displaced by war and persecution and that’s worrying in itself, but the factors that endanger refugees are multiplying too,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.
“At sea, a frightening number of refugees and migrants are dying each year; on land, people fleeing war are finding their way blocked by closed borders. Closing borders does not solve the problem.”
Over the weekend, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon visited the Greek island of Lesvos to show solidarity with the thousands of refugees and migrants trapped there.
He praised Greece’s ‘solidarity and compassion’ towards refugees, but called for a more humanitarian, human-rights focused response from the rest of Europe.
Although Europe’s so-called ‘refugee crisis’ has drawn significant attention in the past year, the vast majority of the world’s refugees are actually in the global south.
More than a million Syrians have fled to Lebanon alone, a comparable figure to the EU’s entire refugee population.
Humanitarian and human rights organisations have today been scathingly critical of European governments for their failure to respond to the crisis.
“This is a crisis that is not going away,” commented Mike Noyes, Head of Humanitarian Response at ActionAid. “Yet instead of protecting people fleeing from war some politicians are demonising them, while most of Europe has closed its borders and passed agreements with repressive regimes to outsource its border control.”
Noyes and others have been particularly critical of the controversial EU-Turkey deal, which sees refugees who arrive in Greece returned to Turkey and registered asylum seekers granted access in their place.
“The blatant disregard for human rights and the dignity of those trapped since the rollout of the EU-Turkey deal nearly three months ago has been a stain on the EU’s global reputation,” said Giorgos Kosmopoulos, an Amnesty International researcher currently in Lesvos.
“It beggars belief that it is now being considered as a template for the EU to shift its responsibilities to other third countries. It is high time for European leaders to stop pretending Turkey is a safe country and putting refugees from Syria and elsewhere at risk.”
The Guardian today reports that, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, eight Syrians were shot by Turkish border guards over the weekend, bringing the total number of Syrians shot at the Turkish border so far this year to 60.
Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin is editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.