Wars, conflicts and crises are forcing more and more people to leave their homes. As reported by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in Geneva, more than 100 million are now fleeing the world. That’s more than ever since the Second World War. The organization speaks of a “dramatic milestone” in the world refugee report that has now been presented. The reasons included the difficult situation in Afghanistan and other countries and, in particular, the effects of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine.
The expulsion from Ukraine is the fastest growing such crisis since UNHCR was founded in 1951. Within weeks, Ukrainians had become the second largest refugee group in the world, after Syrians. So far, 4.9 million people have fled Ukraine and almost seven million from Syria.
Additional current figures from the first half of the year
Normally, the annual world refugee reports refer to the previous year. Because of the dramatic consequences of the Russian war of aggression, the UNHCR, as an exception, also gave the current number of refugees as of May 2022. But even at the end of 2021, a record number of people were already fleeing: 89.3 million, eight percent more than a year earlier, reports the UNHCR . This is the 15th annual increase in a row.
Overall, more than twice as many people were fleeing than ten years ago. Around 60 percent of the displaced found refuge within the borders of their own country. “What we are seeing in eastern Ukraine is very brutal and very scary,” said Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees. He warns that fighting the war-related food shortages is “of paramount importance” to “prevent more people from fleeing”.
But it would be fatal if the focus was only on Ukraine. Huge sums of money were missing to help people in other parts of the world. Among other things, he mentioned tensions in West and East Africa, in the Middle East, the situation of the Rohingya displaced from Myanmar and the situation in South America, where many countries have taken in refugees from Venezuela.
Criticism of receptiveness
Grandi pointed out the different willingness of Europeans to accept refugees from the Ukraine or from the Middle East. “I’m not naive, I understand the context and that it can’t always be like that,” he said. But dealing with the masses of Ukrainian refugees shows that admission to “the coasts or borders of rich countries is manageable”.
Accommodation for refugees from Ukraine in Bavaria (in March): “Admission in rich countries manageable”
Germany took in 1.3 million people, making it the largest host country behind Turkey, Colombia, Uganda and Pakistan. Apart from the neighboring countries of Syria, the Federal Republic is also the largest receiving country for Syrians.
According to Grandi, the crises are becoming more and more complex. Conflicts would be fueled by growing inequality. Bad governance prevents development in many places. Climate change is intensifying the struggle for resources, for example in the Sahel zone in Africa, which is fueling smoldering ethnic conflicts. Soaring food prices are likely to drive even more people to flee, the UNHCR chief said.
“Every year for the past ten years, the numbers have increased steadily,” said Grandi. If the international community does not come together to do something about this human tragedy, to end conflicts and find lasting solutions, “this terrible trend will continue”.
AR/gri (dpa, afp)