This article was originally written for Humanitariman.com
What if the entire population of Thailand or the United Kingdom was forced to leave their homes or country due to violence, persecution, or conflict?
In the wake of the United Kingdom’s vote to exit the European Union, a result due in large part to xenophobic and anti-immigrant sentiment, and the rise of nationalist anti-immigration and anti-refugee sentiment across the globe, it has never been more important to examine the extent of the Refugees, IDPs, and Asylum-seekers globally. As of 2015, 65.3 million people have been forcibly displaced worldwide, an increase of over 5 million from 2014 statistics. To put that into perspective it is as if the entire population of Thailand or the United Kingdom was forced to leave their homes or country due to violence, persecution, conflict, or human rights violations. Of the 65.3 million, 40.8 million are classified as Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs), meaning that they have not crossed an internationally recognized border. These people continue to reside in their native country, many without a home, or adequate access to food, water, education, or healthcare. Still 21.3 million are classified as refugees, currently living outside of their national borders and 3.3 million are asylum-seekers, meaning their status within their current host country is undetermined.
The 2015 figures are the highest recorded in the history of the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), a United Nations Organization that began collecting statistics on refugees in the 1950’s. This trend, however, is not new. In 2011, the UNCHR announced a record high of Forcibly Displaced People at 42.1 million, a number that has increased dramatically in the past 5 years. In 1996 the rate of Forcibly Displaced Peoples was around 5.5 per 1000 world population, a number which has almost doubled in the past 10 years to nearly 9 per 1000 world population. One in every one hundred and thirteen people is displaced from their home today due to violence or persecution. According to the UNHCR 24 people were displaced every minute of every day in 2015. That rate is down from 30 people per minute in 2014, however, it still remains a staggering number continuously adding to the number of globally displaced people. In 2015 12.4 Million people were newly displaced, 8.6 million classified as IDPs while 1.8 million people crossed international borders to seek refuge in neighboring countries. Two million more people applied for asylum, their status yet to be determined.
The number of forcibly displaced peoples continues to rise due to both new and ongoing conflicts around the world. Syria and Afghanistan, the most widely known and covered humanitarian conflicts and crises, contribute the highest amount of refugees and IDPs, followed closely by Somalia. According to the UNHCR these three countries account for 54% of all refugees worldwide, with Syria accounting for 4.9 million refugees worldwide. Of the 65.3 million forcibly displaced people, 11.7 million, or nearly 18 percent, are Syrian citizens. While the Syrian and Afghani conflicts have seen the most media attention and worldwide concern, other unresolved or newly ignited conflicts, like those seen in Burundi, Nigeria, Niger, Yemen, Libya, Ukraine, the Central African Republic, and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as well as widespread violence in Columbia, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras has contributed to the rapid increase in displaced persons. Of the total number of forcibly displaced people worldwide, the Congo (DRC), South Sudan, Sudan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Columbia, Nigeria, Iraq, and Somalia each accounted for over 2 million people.
Despite unprecedented coverage of the European Refugee Crisis, Sub-Sharan African Countries continue to host the most refugees globally at 4.4 million. Just 5 countries, DRC, CAR, South Sudan, Sudan, and Somalia accounted for over 80% of these 4.4 million refugees, as people continue to flee these conflict heavy countries. Currently Europe hosts slightly less than 4.4 million Refugees, the majority of which reside in Turkey who hosts the most refugees (in Europe and the world) as of 2015 at 2.5 million, followed by Germany at 316, 000 people, Russia at 314, 000 people, and France at 273,100 refugees. Three of the top five countries hosting the most refugees are in the Middle East (Excluding Turkey). As of 2015, 3.7 million refugees reside in Lebanon, Pakistan, and Iran. Lebanon itself now hosts 186 refugees per 1000 native persons or roughly 19% of its current in country population has refugee status. Despite misconception it is important to realize that 86% of refugees reside in “Developing Countries” and over half of them are under the age of 19 years old.
Almost twice as many people are internally displaced than have refugee status. Around 40.8 million people are estimated to be internally displaced. Over half of all new internally displaced people reside in Yemen, Iraq, or Syria. However, a significant number of new IDPs are also currently residing in Ukraine, the DRC, Afghanistan, and Sudan. In Yemen, 2.5 million people were displaced in 2015 alone. In Columbia, where the highest amount of IDPs reside, 6.9 million people remain internally displaced, while 6.6 million and 4.4 million reside in Syria and Iraq, respectively.
The sheer size of this problem calls for immediate and collective action. Displaced people often lack adequate access to food, water, healthcare, education, or legal protections. The cost of displacement is enormous. Displaced peoples face a substantial loss of livelihood, purpose, security, access to education and shared prosperity that not only affects people and communities in the interim but also continues to affect them for generations to come. Solutions will require cooperation and open-mindedness on the part of all countries and cultures. The world has to rise above nationalism and nativism and decide to put humanity first. To take in refugees should be a point of pride for countries and their citizens that they are willing lend a hand to others regardless of their nationality or race. As Ugandan Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda stated earlier this year “For the last 20 or 30 years, Uganda has been shouldering half a million refugees…Uganda is proud to do this and we would like to see all other countries play a role.” We all have a shared stake in the prosperity of others whether in our home country or abroad, whether as a country or as an individual. In these times of crisis we cannot afford to close ourselves of to others. We should all take pride and responsibility in helping our fellow man, it’s the only way we can solve the issues we face