The number of displaced people in the world reached a recording-breaking mark of 65.3 million in 2015, according to an annual report released by the United Nations to commemorate World Refugee Day this year.
The United Nations says “war, conflict, and persecution,” are prominent factors that contribute to the displacement of people on a global scale. In turn, the world as a whole faces its greatest moral conflict; especially when, just a decade ago, there were 37.5 million people displaced. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, is frustrated by the increase in the numbers of refugees and asylum seekers due to many countries inability to tame the violent conflicts within their own borders.
“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.”
Europe and The United States are doing their best to tend to the needs of the displaced, but Guterres is concerned that resources will soon dry up as countries have complained their budgets are too stretched to tend to the needs of refugees in the long term.
“We are witnessing a paradigm change, an unchecked slide into an era in which the scale of global forced displacement, as well as the response required, is now clearly dwarfing anything seen before.”
Since 2011, the “world’s single-largest driver” contributing to the influx of displaced people has been the war in Syria (7.6 million). An average of 42,500 people escaped the worn-torn country every single day. Syria, however, isn’t the only country contaminated by war.
The United Nations reports there are at least 15 conflicts around the world. The countries most affected by war are Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. In Africa, there are eight conflicts taking places (Côte d’Ivoire, Central African Republic, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and Burundi). The Middle East currently has three conflicts (Syria, Iraq, and Yemen). In Europe, there is the conflict between Ukraine and Russia. Asia is dealing with three conflicts (Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, and Pakistan). Decades-old conflicts in Afghanistan and Somalia continue to contribute to the displacement of millions of people too.
In 2014, Turkey became the “world’s top refugee-hosting nation with 1.59 million Syrian refugees,” according to the United Nations. The EU has experienced the “biggest volume in asylum applications,” with the highest numbers going to Germany and Sweden. There were 36,800 more asylum claims in the United States than in 2013. Over half the refugees are children.
Not everyone sympathizes with the refugees. In fact, there’s a growing intolerance and moral apathy toward asylum seekers. Politicians in many host nations complain that refugees place a strain on economic investment, drain the budget, deplete available jobs for citizens, and do not share their countries moral and social values. This fear is, in part, a reaction to waves of Middle Eastern immigrants, possibly infiltrated by violent Islamists, literally storming the borders of Europe in a dash to reach safe haven in the Scandinavian countries and Germany, where there are generous social benefits available. The anti-refugee incitement is also a response to the rapidly declining economies of the developed Western nations.
The citizens of many host nations are also quite upset that the affluent oil-producing countries in the Middle East are doing virtually nothing to host the refugees as most have flatly refused to resettle the displaced masses from the region despite sharing a common culture, religion, and language with the asylum seekers. While some of the oil producing Arab states have given millions of dollars in financial aid, they have closed their borders to the flood of humanity fleeing ISIS and violent extremism.
Indeed, terrorist attacks by radical Islamic groups have limited the sympathy usually given to refugees. In particular, Syrian refugees have received the strongest backlash of the displaced persons coming from the various conflict nations. In the United States, Republicans revolted against President Obama wanting to accept 10,000 Syrians after the FBI Director testified under oath in Congress that the United States could not properly vet the refugees. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told radio host Hugh Hewit that Americans were not obliged to provide aid to refugees. Christie cited state rights as his defense, although currently, federal law trumps state law in this circumstance.
“The fact is that we need appropriate vetting, and I don’t think orphans under five are being, you know, should be admitted into the United States at this point.”
Many other Republican governors joined Christie, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who sued the Obama Administration and sought permission to deny refugees from entering and living in the state. However, a federal court ruled against the state of Texas.
The United States isn’t the only country with government officials refusing to assist refugees. European officials are in the midst of battling an anti-refugee mentality as well. Political divisiveness has made way for alleged racism against the refugees in Germany and France. France, in particular, has seen a rise in nationalist sympathy with the popularity of Marine Le Pen, who scores points with her constituents by proclaiming the rights of natural born Frenchmen. Le Pen often pivots to radical Islamism as a reason to deny Syrian refugees passage, much less solace, in the country.
The United Nations concurs that this anti-refugee rhetoric contributes to the plight of refugees as well. It’s very alarming considering half of the refugees are children, yet, this isn’t a determining factor to many who remain anti-refugee.
“With huge shortages of funding and wide gaps in the global regime for protecting victims of war, people in need of compassion, aid and refuge are being abandoned,” warned Guterres. “For an age of unprecedented mass displacement, we need an unprecedented humanitarian response and a renewed global commitment to tolerance and protection for people fleeing conflict and persecution.”
Thus, the world at large faces a conundrum. Help the most desperate or refuse for a variety of reasons; some based on reasonable concerns, and some based on hatred for the other. One thing is for sure; with the 65 million people displaced, there’s isn’t must time to waste to decide.
[Photo by Alexander Koerner/Getty Images]