Worsening Global Refugee Crisis: It’s Moment of Truth, Says UN As It Marks World Refugee Day

refugee-crisis

Photo Credit: UNHCR

As the world observe this year’s Refugee Day, it has turned to be a moment of truth.

This is even as stark warnings over the inability of the international community to cope with record numbers of people forced to flee spiralling wars and persecution provided the grim backdrop to events marking World Refugee Day today.

According to the UN Refugee agency website, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, has declared in a statement that “We have reached a moment of truth.”

“World stability is falling apart leaving a wake of displacement on an unprecedented scale. Global
powers have become either passive observers or distant players in the conflicts driving so many innocent civilians from their homes.”

Guterres, who earlier in the week travelled to the
Turkey-Syrian border to witness Syrians fleeing
the latest upsurge of fighting into southern
Turkey, noted that more people had fled last year
than at any time since UNHCR records began,
pushing the total number of forcibly displaced
people globally to a staggering 59.5 million.

“Around the world, almost 60 million have been
displaced by conflict and persecution. Nearly 20
million of them are refugees, and more than half
are children. Their numbers are growing and
accelerating, every single day, on every
continent,” he added in the statement.

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Guterres has remained in Turkey to mark World
Refugee Day as a gesture of support to the
country which in the last year has taken over
from Pakistan as the biggest refugee-hosting
nation in the world, largely as a result of conflict
in Iraq and Syria, where the war has entered its
5th year.

Turkey now hosts more than 2 million refugees in
total and spends more than US$6 billion on
helping Syrians alone.

“Fifteen years into a millennium that many of us
hoped would see an end to war, a spreading
global violence has come to threaten the very
foundations of our international system,”
Guterres added.

Stressing the grim statistics, he said that in
2014, an average of 42,500 people every day
became refugees, asylum-seekers or internally
displaced.

“That is four times more than just four years
ago. These people rely on us for their survival
and hope. They will remember what we do,” he
said.

The head of the UN refugee agency, who has
previously warned the scale of the current crisis
was overwhelming international humanitarian
organizations, said some countries most able to
help were instead shutting their gates to people
seeking asylum.

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“Borders are closing, pushbacks are increasing,
and hostility is rising. Avenues for legitimate
escape are fading away. And humanitarian
organizations like mine run on shoestring
budgets, unable to meet the spiralling needs of
such a massive population of victims,” he said in
another dire warning.

Guterres called on those with “leverage over the
parties to these conflicts to put aside their
differences and come together to create the
conditions for ending the bloodshed”.

“In the meantime, the world must either shoulder
collectively the burden of helping the victims of
war, or risk standing by as less wealthy countries
and communities – which host 86 per cent of
the world’s refugees – become overwhelmed and
unstable,” he said.

Throughout the ages, refugees have been
considered worthy of protection, Guterres said
but lamented that: “Today, some of the
wealthiest among us are challenging this ancient
principle, casting refugees as gate crashers, job
seekers or terrorists. This is a dangerous course
of action, short-sighted, morally wrong, and – in
some cases – in breach of international
obligations.”

“It is time to stop hiding behind misleading
words. Richer nations must acknowledge
refugees for the victims they are, fleeing from
wars they were unable to prevent or stop,” he
concluded.

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On Thursday, UNHCR’s annual Global Trends
Report: World at War, detailed that the increase
in forcibly displaced in 2014 was the largest leap
ever seen in a single year and said the situation
was likely to worsen still further.

Globally, one in every 122 humans is now either
a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking
asylum. If this were the population of a country,
it would be the world’s 24th biggest.

Meanwhile, decades-old instability and conflict in
Afghanistan, Somalia and elsewhere means that
millions of people remain on the move or – as is
increasingly common – stranded for years on the
edge of society as long-term internally displaced
or refugees.

One of the most recent and highly visible
consequences of the world’s conflicts and the
terrible suffering they cause has been the
dramatic growth in the numbers of refugees
seeking safety through dangerous sea journeys,
including on the Mediterranean, in the Gulf of
Aden and Red Sea, and in Southeast Asia.

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