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,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, while releasing the UNHCR report that puts the number of people displaced worldwide by conflict and persecution at end-2014 at 59.5 million — a record high. The break-up of the statistics gives a refugee figure of 19.5 million, 38.2 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), and 1.8 million awaiting the processing of their asylum claims. Half the total figure is children, with Syria alone accounting for 3.9 million refugees and 7.6 million IDPs. Of the 19.5 million refugees not able to return to their home countries, 14.4 million are Syrians, Somalis and Afghans, while the rest are Palestinians.
If figures could tell a story, these statistics draw out the global map of conflict, showing how the global distribution of refugees continues to remain “heavily skewed away from wealthier nations and towards the less wealthy”. The UNHCR report also corresponds with the EU’s Eurostat data, showing a 50 per cent rise in the number of people displaced across Europe. This ties in with the continuing crisis of refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean and the inability to stop their journeys at the ports of origin.
Guterres has warned that the situation is unprecedented and current humanitarian efforts cannot deliver any more. While there hasn’t been a major global conflict since World War II, not one conflict that has erupted in recent years has been resolved. The consequence is the number of refugees. It’s time the international community recognised the gravity of the situation and addressed it.