50 MILLION REFUGEES! – warns Amnesty

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‘IN 2013, for the first time since World War II, the number of those forcibly displaced from their homes exceeded 50 million,’ warns an Amnesty International briefing published yesterday.

Its executive summary continues: ‘Millions more have since been displaced as a result of conflict and crises around the globe.

‘More than half of Syria’s population is displaced. Some four million women, men and children have fled the country and are refugees, making this one of the biggest refugee crises in history.

‘The vast majority, 95%, are living in the countries neighbouring Syria. In one country, Lebanon, Syrian refugees now account for one in every five people.

‘Despite the huge influx of refugees, the host countries have received almost no meaningful international support.

‘The UN’s humanitarian appeal for Syrian refugees was only 23% funded as of the 3rd June 2015. Calls by the UN for the international community to resettle refugees from Syria have largely fallen on deaf ears.

‘The total number of places offered to refugees from Syria is less than 90,000, only 2.2% of the refugees in the main host countries. . . While Syria is the world’s biggest refugee crisis, it is by no means the only one. . . . There are more than three million refugees in sub-Saharan Africa. Kenya is home to Dadaab – the world’s largest refugee camp, set up in 1991.

‘Yet, the refugee situations in African countries receive little or no global attention – in 2013, less than 15,000 refugees from African countries were resettled and UN humanitarian appeals are severely underfunded. . .

‘In an effort to escape desperate situations refugees and migrants risk their lives – one of the starkest examples is the perilous boat journeys in the Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe. In 2014 and the first three months of 2015, the largest number of people recorded attempting to cross the Mediterranean by boat to reach Southern Europe were Syrians. . .

‘The dramatic increase in the number of lives lost in the Mediterranean in 2015 is partly due to the decision by Italy and the European Union (EU) to end the Italian navy operation Mare Nostrum at the end of 2014 and replace it with a much more limited EU operation. . .

‘The Mediterranean and South East Asia crises exposed governments’ willingness to ignore legal obligations and humanitarian imperatives.

‘In situations where lives were known to be at risk and states had the means to save them, they chose not to act for political reasons. The lives lost were not a result of a violent conflict or an unavoidable natural disaster – most were entirely preventable deaths. . .

‘The global refugee crisis may be fuelled by conflict and persecution but it is compounded by the neglect of the international community in the face of this human suffering.’