The UN High Commissioner for Refugees issued a report today and the findings aren’t pretty:
Wars, conflict and persecution have forced more people than at any other time since records began to flee their homes and seek refuge and safety elsewhere, according to a new report from the UN refugee agency.
UNHCR’s annual Global Trends Report: World at War, released on Thursday (June 18), said that worldwide displacement was at the highest level ever recorded. It said the number of people forcibly displaced at the end of 2014 had risen to a staggering 59.5 million compared to 51.2 million a year earlier and 37.5 million a decade ago.
The increase represents the biggest leap ever seen in a single year. Moreover, the report 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.
You hate to get into predicting these things, but 2015 seems like it’s more than on pace to top 2014. None of the conflicts that presumably fed that 2014 number have abated (though there have been some tentative and fragile steps in a positive direction in the Central African Republic in recent weeks), and in fact things have gotten worse in Yemen and possibly with respect to the Rohingya, and may be about to get worse in Ukraine.
And you also have to allow for the possibility of completely new displacement crises to pop up. Like, say, the one that’s brewing in the Dominican Republic:
The Dominican Republic’s choice to retroactively strip some of its residents of citizenship has created the fifth-largest group of stateless people in the world. Until recently, the Dominican Republic considered all persons born in the country to be citizens, but in 2013, the Dominican Constitutional Court retroactively revoked citizenship for children born to foreign parents as early as 1929. Tuesday was residents’ last chance to petition for naturalization to regain citizenship (albeit a lesser form).
The ruling is expected to primarily affect persons of Haitian heritage, who have been targeted for expulsion previously. Applying the ruling as far back as 1929 meant that families who had been citizens for two or more generations lost their Dominican Republic citizenship and couldn’t turn to Haiti for a new home. A foreign-born person of Haitian descent is eligible for Haitian citizenship only if one parent is a natural-born Haitian citizen.
The United Nations Refugee Agency said at the time of the ruling that it was “deeply concerned” by the Dominican Republic’s policy. The U.N. estimates that 210,000 residents of the Dominican Republic are now stateless.
“Stateless” does not mean “refugee,” but it does mean that those 210,000 people are now internally displaced, and stripping a population of citizenship is often the first step a government takes just before inflicting something horrible on that population. These people (who are officially non-persons now as far as every nation on Earth is concerned) can simply be expelled by the DR (read this for an interesting look at how the DR is rewriting history in order to justify its actions) and then they’ll have to…do what, exactly? Go across the border to Haiti, which likely doesn’t want them and certainly can’t afford this kind of influx? Hispanola is an island, and there are only two countries on it; where else can they go?
It sadly goes without saying that the countries best able to provide for new refugees are the ones least willing to help and who are able to do more than other nations to insulate themselves from the problem:
Meanwhile, with nations across the developing world either at war or in crisis, some of the world’s wealthiest nations have focused on how to beat back the rising tide of those seeking escape.
France and Austria have stepped up police checks at crossings with Italy, leaving migrants to camp out at train stations in Rome and Milan. Hungary on Wednesday announced plans to build a 12-foot fence along its border with Serbia. Nations across Europe have balked at proposals to more equitably share the burden of asylum-seekers while rushing to approve plans to blow up smuggler ships in the Mediterranean.
The tough response has been largely due to political pressure among populations hostile to the influx of migrants. But it prompted Pope Francis on Wednesday to suggest that those “who close the door” to migrants seeking protection should ask forgiveness from God.
The UNHCR does the best they can for refugees all over the world, but like everything else at the UN they don’t have anywhere near the resources they need (mostly because those wealthy nations that won’t take any refugees themselves also can’t be bothered to dole out very much money to care for them elsewhere). Please consider donating if you’re able, or click here to give to the UN Relief and Works Agency, which handles Palestinian refugees.
This is a bit off topic (though it is in the donation arena), but I forgot to include a link to donate to Emanuel Church into my post about the Charleston shooting from earlier today. I’ve now added a link to that post.