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Explained: In numbers and dimensions, the global refugee crisis

Globally, more two-thirds of all refugees come from five countries: Syria (6.7 million), Afghanistan (2.7 million), South Sudan (2.3 million), Myanmar (1.1 million), and Somalia (0.9 million).

Written by Mehr Gill , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: December 19, 2019 7:36:08 am
global refugees, rohingya refugees, syria refusgees, afghan refugees, world refugee problem, refugee accomodation, unhcr, 1951 Convention on Refugees, indian express explained Rohingya refugees in a Bangladesh camp reach out to receive aid in 2017. (Reuters Photo)

The first Global Refugee Forum (GRF) is currently underway in Geneva, Switzerland, jointly hosted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Refugee Agency, and the Government of Switzerland.

At the two-day event, member states of the United Nations (UN) are debating the response of nations to the global refugee situation.

Global refugee numbers

According to the UN, by the end of 2018, there were around 70.8 million people around the world who had left their home countries because of conflict and persecution. Of these 70.8 million, roughly 30 million are refugees.

The UN defines refugees as those individuals that have fled their own countries because of persecution, war or violence.

“A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries,” it says.

Globally, more two-thirds of all refugees come from five countries: Syria (6.7 million), Afghanistan (2.7 million), South Sudan (2.3 million), Myanmar (1.1 million), and Somalia (0.9 million).

Countries in the developed regions host 16 per cent of refugees; one-third of the refugee population (6.7 million people) are in the Least Developed Countries.

The largest host countries are Turkey (3.7 million), Pakistan (1.4 million), Uganda (1.2 million), Sudan (1.1 million), and Germany (1.1 million).

According to the UN’s Global Trends report released in June this year, there are 37,000 new displacements every day.

In 2018, 13.6 million people were newly displaced due to conflict and or persecution.

Current refugee crises

The website of the UNHCR has listed 12 emergency refugee situations that are unfolding currently. Among them:

– In Burundi in East Africa, a humanitarian crisis is unfolding. Economic decline, outbreak of disease, and food insecurity have led to displacements within and outside the country to neighbouring countries including Rwanda, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania. The UN has put the total number of refugees from Burundi at roughly 3.43 lakh.

– An estimated 5.6 million people from Syria have left the country since 2011, seeking refuge in neighbouring Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan among other countries. Turkey hosts the largest number of Syrian refugees at roughly 3.3 million. According to UNHCR, the majority of the Syrians in neighbouring countries live in the urban areas, while roughly 8 per cent live in refugee camps.

– In 2017, the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar fled the country after violence broke out in the country’s Rakhine state. An estimated 6.7 lakh crossed over to neighbouring Bangladesh, adding to the roughly 2.13 lakh Rohingya who had left Myanmar in previous years. Over 5.89 lakh refugees have now settled in the Kutupalong-Balukhali Expansion Site in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district.

– Last week, Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi was at the preliminary hearings of the proceedings launched by the West African country The Gambia in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for alleged genocide against the Rohingya by the Myanmarese military. Suu Kyi has denied the allegations of genocide.

– Other countries and regions facing a refugee situation include Europe, Yemen, Central America, Africa, South Sudan, Venezuela, DR Congo, and Nigeria.

2015 European migrant crisis

In 2015, the image of the body of the three-year-old Syrian boy, Alan Kurdi, lying face down on a beach near Bodrum, Turkey, became a symbol of the refugee crisis and the risk many refugees took in attempting to cross over to the West using water routes.

The UNHCR estimated that over 9 lakh refugees and migrants arrived on European shores in 2015, and roughly 3,500 of them lost their lives during the journey.

About 75 per cent of the incoming people were fleeing conflict or persecution in countries including Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. In April 2015, over 600 people drowned in the Mediterranean Sea after their boat capsized.

Earlier this year, the European Commission (EC) declared that the migration had ended, citing 1.5 lakh arrivals in Europe in 2018, the lowest figure in five years, and attributed this to the “result of joint EU efforts on all fronts”.

“Migration is not new, nor is it unusual. And when managed properly, it is nothing to fear. Yet, amid misinformation, untruths and fake news, it is sometimes hard to know what is actually going on when it comes to migration in Europe,” the Commission said in its statement.

Refugee situation in India

India does not have a separate statute for refugees, and until now has been dealing with refugees on a case-by-case basis.

India is not a signatory to the 1951 Convention on Refugees or the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. In 2011, the Union government circulated to all states and Union Territories a Standard Operating Procedure to deal with foreign nationals who claimed to be refugees.

In late 2011, the Rohingya started to arrive in India’s Northeast following stepped-up persecution by the Myanmarese armed forces.

According to the Home Ministry, there are roughly 14,000 Rohingya refugees in India who are registered with the UNHCR, and there are estimated to be 40,000 Rohingya living in India illegally.

According to the Bureau of Immigration Data, India sent back 330 Pakistanis and 1,770 Bangladeshis between 2015 and 2018.

In 2017, in an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court, the government said: “Rohingya presence in the country has serious national security ramifications and it poses national security threats. Illegal influx of Rohingyas into India started in 2012-13 and inputs suggest links of some of the immigrants with Pak-based terror groups.”

Also, “There is a serious possibility of eruption of violence against Buddhists who are Indian citizens and who stay on Indian soil by radicalised Rohingyas.”

Earlier this year, the Home Ministry informed Rajya Sabha that India had deported 22 Myanmar nationals, including Rohingya, since 2017.

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