Some 110 million people have had to flee their homes because of conflict, persecution, or human rights violations, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees says. The war in Sudan, which has displaced nearly 2 million people since April, is but the latest in a long list of crises that has led to the record-breaking figure. "It's quite an indictment on the state of our world," Filippo Grandi, who leads the U.N. refugee agency, told reporters in Geneva ahead of the publication Wednesday of UNHCR's Global Trends Report for 2022. Also Read: Record 108.4 mln people forcibly displaced by end of 2022: UNHCR Last year alone, an additional 19 million people were forcibly displaced including more than 11 million who fled Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in what became the fastest and largest displacement of people since World War II. "We are constantly confronted with emergencies," Grandi said. Last year the agency recorded 35 emergencies, three to four times more than in previous years. "Very few make your headlines," Grandi added, arguing that the war in Sudan fell off most front pages after Western citizens were evacuated. Also Read: UN agencies warn of starvation risk in Sudan, Haiti, Burkina Faso and Mali, call for urgent aid Conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Myanmar were also responsible for displacing more than 1 million people within each country in 2022. The majority of the displaced globally have sought refuge within their nation's borders. One-third of them - 35 million - have fled to other countries, making them refugees, according to the UNHCR report. Most refugees are hosted by low to middle-income countries in Asia and Africa, not rich countries in Europe or North America, Grandi said. Also Read: Sudan military ruler seeks removal of UN envoy in letter to UN chief, who is 'shocked' by the demand Turkey currently hosts the most refugees with 3.8 million people, mostly Syrians who fled the civil war, followed by Iran with 3.4 million refugees, mostly Afghans. But there are also 5.7 million Ukrainian refugees scattered across countries in Europe and beyond. The number of stateless people has also risen in 2022 to 4.4 million, according to UNHCR data, but this is believed to be an underestimate. Also Read: Thousands of exhausted South Sudanese head home, fleeing brutal conflict Regarding asylum claims, the U.S. was the country to receive the most new applications in 2022 with 730,400 claims. It's also the nation with the largest backlog in its asylum system, Grandi said. "One of the things that needs to be done is reforming that asylum system so that it becomes more rapid, more efficient," he said. The United States, Spain and Canada recently announced plans to create asylum processing centers in Latin America with the goal of reducing the number of people who trek their way north to the Mexico-U.S. border. Also Read: UN: Sudan conflict displaces over 1.3 million, including some 320K to neighboring countries As the number of asylum-seekers grows, so have the challenges facing them. "We see pushbacks. We see tougher and tougher immigration or refugee admission rules. We see in many countries the criminalization of immigrants and refugees, blaming them for everything that has happened," Grandi said. Also Read: War in Ukraine, disasters left 71mn people internally displaced in 2022: Report Last week European leaders renewed financial promises to North African nations in the hopes of stemming migration across the Mediterranean while the British government insists on a so-far failed plan to ship asylum-seekers to Rwanda, something UNHCR is opposed to. But there were also some wins, Grandi said, pointing to what he described as a positive sign in the European Union's negotiations for a new migration and asylum pact, despite criticism from human rights groups. Also Read: Sudan's government declares UN envoy ‘persona non grata’ Grandi also celebrated the fact that the number of refugees resettled in 2022 doubled to 114,000 from the previous year. But he admitted this was "still a drop in the ocean."
Malaysian police have found the body of a young woman trapped in a car that was swept away by rushing waters, the fifth death of seasonal floods that have also forced more than 43,000 people to flee their homes. Police said in a statement Monday that a 23-year-old woman reported missing was believed to be driving to work earlier in the day on a flooded road in southern Johor state when her car was washed away. Rescuers retrieved the car hours later and found her body. A man driving to work in a palm oil plantation in Johor was similarly found dead recently after rescuers retrieved his car from floodwaters. Three older people also drowned. Johor, the country’s second-largest state bordering Singapore with four million people, is the worst affected with over 40,000 evacuated to schools and community centers. The number of evacuees has dropped from over 50,000 a few days ago. Several other states including remote areas on Borneo island were also hit. Also Read: Study: 15 million people live under threat of glacial floods Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim visited flood victims Sunday in Johor and vowed to speed up flood mitigation projects in the state. “This matter cannot be delayed and should be dealt with more seriously so that (flooding) does not happen again,” he tweeted. The Meteorological Department has said the country was experiencing its sixth episode of continuous heavy rain from the annual monsoon season that started in November. In December, tens of thousands of people were also evacuated due to flooding. Images posted by police in Johor showed roads and homes disappearing under muddy waters, with only rooftops visible. Further rain and storms are predicted Tuesday in parts of Johor and eastern Malaysian states on Borneo, which could cause more flash floods. Authorities also warned waters in over a dozen rivers nationwide have reached dangerous levels.
Living for years in a tent camp for displaced people in Syria’s rebel-held northwest, Ali Abu Yassin used to envy friends and relatives who had brick walls around them and solid ceilings over their heads. The situation was turned on its head after Monday’s devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Turkey and Syria, killing more than 23,000 people, collapsing and damaging tens of thousands of buildings and potentially leaving millions displaced. More than 20 of Abu Yassin’s relatives were killed when their apartment buildings collapsed from the quake in the nearby village of Bisnya, he said, including one cousin’s entire family of 14. Abu Yassin made it to the village to help with rescue efforts. “It took us two days to pull out their bodies and bury them in a mass grave,” Abu Yassin said by telephone from the rebel-held province of Idlib. From the tent he had once wished to leave, the father of three said, “I am so lucky. It’s God’s will.” Before the earthquake, Syria’s 12-year-old uprising-turned-civil war had already displaced half the country’s pre-war population of 23 million. Abu Yassin was among them, fleeing from his home in another part of Idlib years ago. Now the earthquake has caused a new wave of displacement. Also Read: Earthquake stuns Syria's Aleppo even after war's horrors The swath of destruction included the rebel-held enclave, centered on Idlib province, as well as heavily populated government-held cities like Aleppo, Hama and Latakia. The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, said Friday that as many as 5.3 million people in Syria may have been left homeless. For many, this is their second displacement. Wassim Jaadan left his house in the rebel-held village of Zardana in Idlib, then under bombing by government forces, and fled to Lebanon with his family in 2013. Nine years later, after Lebanon collapsed into a protracted economic crisis and they could no longer afford rent, Jaadan brought his wife and four children home to Zardana. “The economic situation was better than Lebanon, and we had our family, our parents here,” he said. When the earthquake struck on Monday, the family was awoken by a light shaking that quickly became more violent. They escaped before the building fell and crumbled to rubble. The family now lives in a tent, which is nearly empty since all their possessions were destroyed. “We are about to die from the cold,” Jaadan said. “I am unable to think because of the shock.” UNHCR said in a statement that it is trying to ensure that shelters housing displaced people have adequate facilities, as well as tents, plastic sheeting, thermal blankets, sleeping mats and winter clothing. However, aid has been slow to reach many areas. The first earthquake-related aid convoy of 14 trucks crossed through Turkey into northwestern Syria on Friday, a U.N. spokesperson told The Associated Press. The road to the Bab al-Hawa border crossing was obstructed for days following the earthquake due to road damage and debris from collapsed buildings. In the rural areas of northwest Syria, there are “tens of thousands of displaced people staying under olive trees in freezing temperatures,” Raed Saleh, head of the opposition’s Syrian Civil Defense, also known as White Helmets, said during a news conference Friday. Saleh said 500 buildings in northwest Syria have been completely destroyed, 1,400 partially crumbled and tens of thousands of homes were damaged. In other earthquake-damaged areas, displaced people crowded into temporary shelters in churches and mosques, schools, hotels and gyms. On Friday, in his first visit to areas hit by the earthquake, President Bashar Assad and his wife Asma visited two shelters in the northern city of Aleppo and a kitchen preparing 3,000 meals a day for displaced people. In the coastal city of Latakia, a base of support for Assad, some 2,000 people on Friday evening crammed into the city’s sports center. Under a banner with Assad’s face and a Syrian flag, the floor of the center’s basketball court was crowded with mattresses and sleeping bags. Families huddled in winter jackets to stay warm and ate hot meals provided by a local aid organization. Wardah al-Hussein, a 67-year-old mother of nine, said she has been sleeping in the stadium since the earthquake. Originally from Aleppo, she was now starting her second displacement. “We fled from our city and our house was destroyed, and we came here,” she said. “Now because of the earthquake we went through it all again.” Those whose homes were spared have opened them to relatives and neighbors. A resident of the rebel-held northwestern town of Atmeh, Mustafa Ali, said that already two families of relatives moved in with his family in his three-room apartment while they wait to see if experts will make sure their own homes are suitable for living. “What people urgently need now is tents” as well as warm clothes and baby formula, Ali said. An aid worker based in northern Syria, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said eight sprawling facilities, including a center where coronavirus patients were once kept, have been opened to host the displaced in the region. Adding to the troubles of the displaced, he said, food prices are going up in the wake of the earthquake due to limited supplies. “Our conditions are miserable,” he said. “I need aid now.” ___ Associated Press reporter Abdelrahman Shaheen in Latakia, Syria, contributed to this report.
The United Nations' humanitarian relief agency says the number of people displaced within strife-torn Myanmar has for the first time exceeded 1 million, with well over half the total losing their homes after a military takeover last year. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says in a report that an already critical situation is being exacerbated by ongoing fighting between the military government and its opponents, the increasing prices of essential commodities, and the coming of monsoon season, while funding for its relief efforts is severely inadequate. Its report covers the situation up to May 26. The military has hindered or denied independent access to areas not under its control, hampering aid efforts. Myanmar’s army in February last year seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, triggering widespread peaceful protests. When those were put down with lethal force by the army and police, nonviolent opposition turned into armed resistance, and the country slipped into what some U.N. experts characterize as a civil war. Also read: Myanmar situation continues to remain unsafe for civilians: Bangladesh OCHA says that fighting has recently escalated. “The impact on civilians is worsening daily with frequent indiscriminate attacks and incidents involving explosive hazards, including landmines and explosive remnants of war," the report says. It says that more than 694,300 people have become displaced from their homes since the army takeover, with thousands being uprooted a second or third time, and an estimated 346,000 people were displaced by fighting before last year’s takeover — mostly in frontier regions populated by ethnic minority groups who have been struggling for greater autonomy for decades. The report also says about 40,200 people have fled to neighboring countries since the takeover and more than 12,700 “civilian properties,” including houses, churches, monasteries and schools are estimated to have been destroyed. As of the end of the first quarter of this year, humanitarian assistance reached 2.6 million people in Myanmar, or 41% of the 6.2 million people targeted, OCHA says. The country's total population is over 55 million. But it warns this year’s Myanmar Humanitarian Response Plan is only 10% funded so far, falling short by $740 million. An official of the military government's Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement said Wednesday at a news conference in Myanmar's capital Naypyitaw that the government distributed humanitarian aid to more than 130,000 displaced people from May 2021 through May 27 this year. The official, whose testimony was broadcast but who was not identified by name, said 1,255 houses and five religious buildings were burned or destroyed in fighting between the army and local resistance militias, and consequently received government aid for rebuilding. Also read: FM urges UNHCR to expedite efforts at Rohingya repatriation to Myanmar U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said last month that the number of people worldwide forced to flee conflict, violence, human rights violations and persecution has crossed the milestone of 100 million for the first time on record. That's more than 1% of the global population and comprises refugees and asylum-seekers as well as people displaced inside their own countries by conflict. Violence and conflicts in countries including Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Myanmar, Nigeria, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo had driven the total to almost 90 million by the end of last year. The war in Ukraine pushed the number past the 100 million mark. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, an independent Geneva-based non-governmental organization, said 53.2 million people were displaced within their countries as a result of conflict and violence as of Dec. 31.
The number of people fleeing wars, persecution, violence and human rights violations in 2020 rose to a record 82.4 million despite the impact of the pandemic, the UN's refugee agency (UNHCR) says. This is a 4% increase on top of the already record-high 79.5 million at the end of 2019, according to the UNHCR's latest annual Global Trends report released Friday. The total has doubled in a decade and more than 1% of the world's population is now displaced; there are twice as many forcibly displaced people than in 2011 when the number was just under 40 million. READ: Bhasan Char much better than Cox’s Bazar camps: UNHCR While people continued to flee across borders, millions more were displaced within their own countries. Driven mostly by crises in Ethiopia, Sudan, Sahel countries, Mozambique, Yemen, Afghanistan and Colombia the number of internally displaced people rose by more than 2.3 million. Throughout 2020, some 3.2 million internally displaced people (IDPs) and just 251,000 refugees returned to their homes – a 40 and 21% drop, compared to 2019, the UNHCR said. Another 33,800 refugees were naturalised by their countries of asylum. Refugee resettlement registered a drastic plunge. Just 34,400 refugees were resettled last year, the lowest level in 20 years – a consequence of a reduced number of resettlement places and Covid-19. By the end of 2020, there were 20.7 million refugees under UNHCR mandate, 5.7 million Palestine refugees and 3.9 million Venezuelans displaced abroad. Another 48 million people were IDPs. A further 4.1 million were asylum-seekers. These numbers indicate that despite the pandemic and calls for a global ceasefire, conflict continued to chase people from their homes, the UNHCR said. Almost 1 million children were born as refugees between 2018 and 2020. Many of them may remain refugees for years to come, according to a new estimate of the UN's refugee agency. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said, "While the 1951 Refugee Convention and the Global Compact on Refugees provide the legal framework and tools to respond to displacement, we need the much greater political will to address conflicts and persecution that force people to flee in the first place." READ: UNHCR seeks vaccinations for refugees in Asia, including Rohingyas At the peak of the pandemic in 2020, over 160 countries had closed their borders, with 99 states making no exception for people seeking protection. Yet with improved measures – such as medical screenings at borders, health certification or temporary quarantine upon arrival, simplified registration procedures and remote interviewing – more and more countries found ways to ensure access to asylum while trying to stem the spread of the pandemic.
Assistant High Commissioner for Protection at UNHCR, Gillian Triggs on Monday warned that COVID-19 is inducing massive protection risks for women and girls forced to flee their homes. “We need to pay urgent attention to the protection of refugee, displaced and stateless women and girls at the time of this pandemic. They are among those most at-risk. Doors should not be left open for abusers and no help spared for women surviving abuse and violence,” said Triggs. Confinement policies, lockdowns and quarantines adopted across the world as a response to the pandemic have led to restricted movement, reduced community interaction, the closure of services and worsening socio-economic conditions. These factors are significantly exacerbating the risks of intimate partner violence, according to a media note received from Geneva. Some may end up confined to their shelters and homes, trapped with their abusers without the opportunity to distance themselves or to seek in-person support, said Triggs. “Others, including those without documentation or those who have lost precarious livelihoods, as a result of the economic devastation that COVID-19 has inflicted, may be forced into survival sex or child marriages by their families. Within the household, many women are also taking on increased burdens as caregivers.” For survivors of violence and those at-risk, the consequences of COVID-19 also mean limited access to life-saving support, such as psycho-social, health and security services. Imposed mobility restrictions and containment measures make it difficult for women to access help while some services, including safe shelters, have been temporarily suspended, re-purposed or closed. “Globally, our network of UNHCR protection staff are on high alert. Our life-saving programs for women and girls subjected to violence are being adapted where possible. In some locations they are now being managed remotely by social workers with the support of trained community volunteer networks,” said Triggs. Displaced women themselves remain involved at the forefront of the response, informing their communities about the risks of violence and providing information on prevention and protective health measures. They are also supporting survivors to access available, specialised support. Triggs said UNHCR is also distributing emergency cash assistance to support survivors and women-at-risk. Action is also being coordinated across the humanitarian sector to ensure the risks of sexual and gender-based violence are mitigated throughout all sectoral interventions, including but not limited to the emergency health response. “To preserve lives and secure rights, Governments, together with humanitarian actors, must ensure that rising risks of violence for displaced and stateless women are taken into account in the design of national COVID-19 prevention, response and recovery plans,” said Triggs. This means ensuring critical services for survivors of gender-based violence are designated as essential and are accessible to those forcibly displaced. These include health and security services for survivors, psycho-social support services and safe shelters. Access to justice for survivors must also not be diminished. Given the deteriorating socio-economic conditions now facing many refugee host countries, support from donors will be critically needed to preserve the operations of essential gender-based violence prevention and response services, including those provided by local, women-led organizations. “All women and girls have the right to a life free from all forms of violence. We must stand with displaced and stateless women and girls as we reiterate the Secretary General’s message and urge all governments to put all women and girls’ safety first as they respond to the pandemic," said Triggs.
The United States has said it is deeply troubled by escalating violence in the northern Rakhine State and Chin State of Myanmar, where dozens have been killed and thousands have been displaced in recent months.