Connect with us

Human Rights

More uprooted, fewer return, pushing forcibly displaced above 80 million

Refugees from Côte d’Ivoire await registration in Liberia in October 2020. © UNHCR/Roland Tuley

Published

on

The number of people forcibly displaced around the world has doubled in the past decade and is estimated to have passed 80 million in mid-2020, as few could go home and more were uprooted, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said in a report published on Wednesday.

That total, roughly equivalent to the population of Germany or Turkey, includes people displaced within their own country, refugees, asylum seekers and others who have been forced out of their own country.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said the numbers had risen as the international community had failed to safeguard peace.

Global ceasefire now

“We are now surpassing another bleak milestone that will continue to grow unless world leaders stop wars”, Mr. Grandi said in a statement, resonating with the UN Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire amidst the collective struggle to turn the COVID tide.

The year saw a continuation of the conflicts and humanitarian crises in Syria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, Somalia, and Yemen that have driven people from their homes in previous years, as well as significant new displacement resulting from brutal violence, including rape and executions, across Africa’s Central Sahel region.

But 2020 also added a new factor: the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While COVID-19 has temporarily led to a reduction in the number of new asylum-seekers due to movement restrictions and border closures, including when no exceptions are made for admission to territory, the underlying factors leading to conflict in situations globally remain unaddressed”, the UNHCR report said.

“At the same time, resettlement countries are accepting smaller numbers of refugees, and host countries are struggling to integrate displaced populations. Restrictions on movement and concerns about transmission of the virus have resulted in some solutions programmes being almost entirely suspended.”

Syrians and Venezuelans

As the first wave of the pandemic was in progress during April, 168 countries had fully or partially closed their borders, with 90 countries making no exception for people seeking asylum; although 111 countries have since found pragmatic ways to keep their asylum system fully or partially operational, UNHCR said.

The mid-year figure of 80 million includes 26.4 million refugees, including 5.7 million under the mandate of the UN Palestinian relief agency UNRWA, plus 4.2 million asylum-seekers and 3.6 million Venezuelans displaced abroad.

Those figures come on top of the 45.7 million people who were displaced around the world at the start of 2020 – a number that was not updated in UNHCR’s latest calculation.

The biggest group of refugees are victims of almost a decade of war in Syria, totalling 6.6 million. Neighbouring Turkey, with 3.6 million refugees, remains the world’s biggest host nation for refugees, followed by Colombia, Pakistan and Uganda.

Germany – another major destination for Syrians fleeing the conflict – hosts 1.1 million refugees, the fifth biggest population globally.

Only one per cent made it home

During the first half of 2020, only around one per cent of the overall displaced population is thought to have gone home, a much lower rate than in the same period of 2019.

The number of internally displaced people returning fell by almost three-quarters to 635,000, with Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, and South Sudan accounting for the bulk of returns. The number of refugees returning fell by one-fifth to 102,600, and 85,000 Venezuelans also returned from neighbouring countries.

Continue Reading
Comments

Human Rights

Pandemic curbs trend towards ever-increasing migration

Published

on

photo © UNHCR/Hazim Elhag

Travel restrictions and other curbs to movement put in place in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, have put a significant dent in migration figures, but the overall trend shows 100 million more people living outside their countries of origin in 2020, compared to the year 2000, a new UN report revealed on Friday.

‘Migration is part of today’s world’

International Migration 2020 Highlights, published by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), shows that the pandemic may have slowed migration flows by around two million people last year, cutting the annual growth expected since mid-2019 by around 27 per cent.

Since the year 2000, however, there has been a major increase in migration. That year some 173 million people lived outside of their countries of origin. Twenty years later, that figure had risen to 281 million.

In a statement, Liu Zhenmin, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said “The report affirms that migration is a part of today’s globalized world and shows how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the livelihoods of millions of migrants and their families, and undermined progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Less money sent home

The economic crisis that following in the wake of the pandemic has had a major impact on remittances, the money migrants send home to their countries of origin. The World Bank projects that remittances sent back to low- and middle-income countries may see a $78 billion dip, around 14 per cent of the total amount.

This will negatively affect the livelihoods of millions of migrants and their families, especially in those countries with a big diaspora. India, for example, has the largest diaspora in the world: 18 million people born in India live outside the country. Other nations with significant diasporas include Mexico, the Russian Federation (11 million each), China (10 million) and Syria (eight million).

US and Germany top destinations

Unsurprisingly, high income countries are the most coveted destinations for migrants. The US takes the top spot with 51 million migrants hosted in 2020.

Germany hosted the second largest number of migrants worldwide, at around 16 million, followed by Saudi Arabia (13 million), the Russian Federation (12 million) and the United Kingdom (nine million).

Many migrants do not travel far, however. Nearly half of them remain in the region from which they originated. For example, in Europe 70 per cent of migrants come from another European country. Similarly, some 63 per cent of migrants in sub-Saharan Africa come from a country in the same region.

Most refugees in lower income countries

Contrary to some perceptions, the vast majority of refugees, around 80 per cent, are hosted in low- and middle-income countries, and constitute some 12 per cent of all international migrants.

The number of refugees is rising faster than voluntary migration: the number of people forced to leave home due to conflict, crises, persecution, violence or human rights violations has doubled from 17 to 34 million since the beginning of the 21st Century.

In recognition of the need to better manage migration, the General Assembly has adopted several landmark agreements, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. DESA says that around 60 countries have begun to adopt measures to ensure safe, orderly and regular migration.

Continue Reading

Human Rights

UN officials fear US terrorist designation will hasten famine in Yemen

Published

on

© UNICEF

Senior UN officials have expressed concern over the potential impact of the decision by the United States to designate Yemen’s Ansar Allah, more commonly known as the Houthi movement, a terrorist group, the Security Council heard on Thursday. 

Briefing the online meeting, UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths said Yemen was going through dark times following a deadly attack last month on its newly-formed Cabinet, and with millions facing potential famine, but emphasized that peace is still possible. 

Mr. Griffiths condemned the 30 December attack at the airport in Aden, which targeted the Government officials who had just arrived from Saudi Arabia.  Dozens of civilians, aid workers and a journalist were also killed. 

“The attack cast a dark shadow over what should have been a moment of hope in the efforts to achieve peace in Yemen. The formation of the Cabinet and its return to Aden was a major milestone for the Riyadh Agreement and for the stability of state institutions, the economy, and the peace process”, he said

“The Government has launched an investigation into the Aden attack and has made its conclusions public earlier today that Ansar Allah was behind the attack.” 

‘Chilling effect’ on peace efforts 

For more than five years, Yemen has been mired in conflict between the internationally-recognized Government, which is backed by a Saudi-led coalition, and Houthi rebels. 

On Sunday, the United States announced it will designate the group a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) under domestic law.  Mr. Griffiths expressed serious concern over this prospect. 

“We fear in my mission that there will be inevitably a chilling effect on my efforts to bring the parties together. We all hope to have absolute clarity on far-reaching exemptions to be able to carry out our duties”, he said. 

Yemen remains the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Some 16 million people will go hungry this year, and 50,000 are already essentially starving to death, amid a shortfall in aid.  Preventing a massive famine is the most urgent priority, the UN Humanitarian Affairs chief and Emergency Coordinator told ambassadors. 

Yemenis stockpiling food 

Mark Lowcock called for the FTO designation to be reversed, which Mr. Griffiths also supported, outlining its potential impact on aid relief in a country that overwhelmingly relies on food imports.

He explained that humanitarian agencies provide food vouchers or cash to needy Yemenis so they can shop at markets. 

 “Aid agencies cannot, they simply cannot, replace the commercial import system,” he stressed.  “What this means is that what the commercial importers do is the single biggest determinant of life and death in Yemen.” 

Mr. Lowcock reported that Yemenis are already rushing to markets to stockpile food, while commercial traders fear the designation will affect their operations.   

“Some suppliers, banks, insurers and shippers are ringing up their Yemeni partners and saying they now plan to walk away from Yemen altogether”, he said.  “They say the risks are too high. They fear being accidentally or otherwise caught up in US regulatory action which would put them out of business or into jail.” 

Although the US plans to introduce licences so that some aid and imports can continue, the relief chief said further details will not be available until 19 January, the day the designation takes force. 

Reverse designation, or face catastrophe 

The head of the World Food Programme (WFP), David Beasley, gave a blunt assessment of the prospects, putting aside his prepared remarks to speak “heart-to-heart”. 

“We are struggling now without the designation. With the designation, it’s going to be catastrophic. It literally is going to be a death sentence to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of innocent people in Yemen,” he said. 

Mr. Beasley, an American, also removed his “UN hat” for a moment, to speak about his engagement with Washington, which allocated $3.75 billion to WFP last year.  

“I’m very grateful for that”, he said. “But this designation, it needs to be re-assessed, it needs to be re-evaluated, and, quite frankly, it needs to be reversed.” 

Mr. Beasley added that Yemen is among several countries facing famine, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these crises. 

The WFP chief called for Gulf States “to pick up the humanitarian financial tab for this problem in Yemen”, and urged the Council and world leaders to apply pressure on the warring parties to end their fighting. 

 “I can assure you that Mark Lowcock and I will be before you pretty soon talking about other countries,” he said.  “And if we can’t solve this one – this is man-made completely – shame on us.”

Continue Reading

Human Rights

UNICEF: Closing schools should be ‘measure of last resort’

Published

on

Teachers and students wear face masks and maintain physical distance at a school in Cambodia. © UNICEF/Chansereypich Seng

The head of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) underscored on Tuesday that “no effort should be spared” to keep children in school, as the coronavirus pandemic continues into a second year. 

“Despite overwhelming evidence of the impact of school closures on children, and despite increasing evidence that schools are not drivers of the pandemic, too many countries have opted to keep schools closed, some for nearly a year”, Henrietta Fore said in a statement

A high cost 

The UNICEF chief highlighted that the cost of closing schools has been devastating, with 90 per cent of students globally facing shutdowns at the peak of the COVID disruptions last year, leaving more than a third of schoolchildren with no access to remote education. 

“The number of out-of-school children is set to increase by 24 million, to a level we have not seen in years and have fought so hard to overcome”, she said. 

“Children’s ability to read, write and do basic math has suffered, and the skills they need to thrive in the 21st century economy have diminished”, Ms. Fore added. 

Closure a ‘last resort’ 

Keeping children at home puts their health, development, safety and well-being at risk – with the most vulnerable bearing the heaviest brunt, she said. 

She pointed out that without school meals, children are “left hungry and their nutrition is worsening”; without daily peer interactions and less mobility, they are “losing physical fitness and showing signs of mental distress”; and without the safety net that school often provides, they are “more vulnerable to abuse, child marriage and child labour”. 

“That’s why closing schools must be a measure of last resort, after all other options have been considered”, stressed the top UNICEF official. 

Evaluating local transmission 

Assessing transmission risks at the local level should be “a key determinant” in decisions on school operations, Ms. Fore said. 

She also flagged that nationwide school closures be avoided, whenever possible. 

“Where there are high levels of community transmission, where health systems are under extreme pressure and where closing schools is deemed inevitable, safeguarding measures must be put in place”, maintained the UNICEF chief. 

Moreover, it is important that children who are at risk of violence in their homes, who are reliant upon school meals and whose parents are essential workers, continue their education in classrooms. 

After lockdown restrictions are lifted, she said that schools must be among the first to reopen and catch-up classes should be prioritized to keep children who were unable to learn remotely from being left behind. 

“If children are faced with another year of school closures, the effects will be felt for generations to come”, said Ms. Fore.

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

Terrorism1 hour ago

When shall the UNSC declare RSS a terrorist outfit?

Pakistan has urged the United Nations Security Council to designate India’s Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the parent organization of the...

Diplomacy3 hours ago

The Growth of Soft Power in the World’s Largest Democracy

Power in the field of foreign affairs has previously always been well-known and understood as “Hard Power”. This is used...

Americas5 hours ago

Why won’t Bowdich evoke 9/11 now?

“Day of fire”. That’s how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi referred to the Capitol insurrection, which happens to be the exact...

Reports7 hours ago

Air travel down 60 per cent, as airline industry losses top $370 billion

A new report from the UN’s air transportation agency confirms there was a “dramatic” fall in international air travel due...

Americas9 hours ago

Latin America and China: The difficulties in relations and Covid-19

The relations between China and Latin America have developed positively, but some problems and challenges are also being faced. Firstly,...

Reports11 hours ago

Reskilling and Labour Migration Vital to the Pacific’s Economic Recovery

While the Pacific and Papua New Guinea (PNG) have avoided some of the worst health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,...

Health & Wellness13 hours ago

COVID-19 committee stresses need for equitable vaccine access, more data sharing

As COVID-19 cases spike in parts of Europe, Africa and the Americas, and new variants of the virus emerge in...

Trending