Displaced people deserve solace, not hatred - GulfToday

Displaced people deserve solace, not hatred

Syria-displaced

Displaced Syrian children at a camp.

With the UN refugee agency indicating that a record 71 million people have now been displaced worldwide by war, persecution and other violence, the world community cannot anymore afford to turn a blind eye to the crucial issue.

Collective and effective global measures to tackle the root causes of displacements are essential without delay as the plight and number of displaced people is multiplying rapidly.

The new data indicates global displacement numbers are at the highest level that the UNHCR has seen in its almost 70-year existence and this should be seen as a wake up call for action.

It should not be forgotten that the figure of 70.8 million is merely conservative because the number of people who fled Venezuela›s devastating crisis is undercounted.

Only half a million of the four million people that left Venezuela amid an ongoing economic and political crisis are said to have formally applied for asylum and refugee status.

Being displaced from one’s home, city or country could prove a hugely devastating experience for any individual or family. The children, women and the elderly are especially forced to face unbearable and inhuman situations. All this for no mistake of their own: It’s just that they happened to be at a wrong place at a wrong time.

They are people struggling to survive by crossing rivers, deserts, seas, fences and other barriers, natural and man-made, to escape government oppression, gang killings, sexual abuse, militia murders and other such violence at home.

A glance at the figures would reflect the extent of the situation. Some 37,000 people were uprooted from their homes every day in 2018. Of the 41.3 million internally displaced people in 2018 – at a rate of 37,000 a day –some 13.6 million were newly displaced last year.  

This included nearly 11 million individuals who were uprooted inside their country and 2.8 million new refugees and asylum-seekers.

The UN report also illustrates how the fallout from conflict zones continues to drive displacement, with more than two-thirds of all refugees coming from just five countries: Syria (6.7 million), Afghanistan (2.7 million), South Sudan (2.3 million) Myanmar (1.1 million) and Somalia (900,000).

Surprisingly, while richer countries hosted merely 16 per cent of refugees in 2018, least developed nations sheltered one in three.

The best solution for a refugee is to be able to return home once their country stabilises, but as UNHCR head Filippo Grandi points out, 20 per cent have been in exile for more than two decades. There are new conflicts, new situations producing refugees, but the old ones never get resolved.

The political rhetoric that has been hostile to migrants and refugees in many countries highlight a lack of empathy with the victims.

Grandi is correct in dismissing numerous preconceptions about migrants and refugees “just taking advantage and seeking opportunities,” given that half of the refugees children. Children do not flee to seek better opportunities; children flee because there is a risk and a danger.

The huge numbers indicate the failure on the part of the international community to protect helpless civilians in troubled spots.

UN officials had earlier highlighted how globally malnutrition rates among refugees were rising and health facilities increasingly overcrowded, with children missing out on education. In addition, they had cited how there are growing protection risks because of shortages of personnel to deal with unaccompanied children or victims or sexual violence.

The future of entire generations of children and young people in countries affected by conflicts and unrest are at stake.

There is a need for more equitable sharing of responsibility among countries for hosting and supporting the world’s refugees.

The situation should not reach a stage where insecurity and hopelessness set in the minds of displaced persons. It is the duty of the rest of humanity to wake up and extend a helping hand. Simultaneously, peace and humanitarian efforts need to be intensified.