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Over half of the world’s 68 million displaced are children
by UNHCR, IFRC, IDMC, agencies
9:44pm 19th Jun, 2018
June 2018
30 million children displaced by conflict need protection now and sustainable solutions over the long term - UN Children''s Fund
There are now more children forcibly displaced by conflict – an estimated 30 million – than at any other time since the Second World War, UNICEF said on the eve of World Refugee Day. The UN children’s agency warns that these vulnerable children need access to protection and essential services to keep them safe now, as well as sustainable solutions to ensure their wellbeing over the long term.
Amidst ongoing conversations over a global plan of action in support of refugees, UNICEF is urging world leaders to redouble efforts to secure the rights, safety and wellbeing of the world’s most vulnerable children – so many of whom remain displaced by conflict, violence and political instability.
“On World Refugee Day, it’s important to remember the threats and challenges that children on the move face daily,” said UNICEF Director of Emergency Programmes Manuel Fontaine. “Uprooted children – whether refugee, asylum seeker or internally displaced – face grave risks to their health and safety, along with significant barriers that limit access to the services they need to thrive. These children need more than just a day – they need hope, opportunities and protection. We call upon member states to renew their commitments to fulfil those children’s rights and aspirations.”
As the number of forcibly displaced and refugee children has reached record highs, their access to essential support and services like healthcare and education remains deeply compromised. Only half of all refugee children, for example, are enrolled in primary school, while less than a quarter of refugee adolescents are in secondary school.
The global number of refugee and migrant children moving alone has also reached previously unseen levels, increasing nearly five-fold within the five-year period from 2010. At least 300,000 unaccompanied and separated children were recorded in some 80 countries in 2015-2016, up from 66,000 in 2010-2011. The true figure of children moving alone, however, is likely to be significantly higher. Unaccompanied and separated children are at heightened risk of trafficking, exploitation, violence and abuse. Children account for approximately 28 per cent of trafficking victims globally.
UNICEF hopes the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR), as well as the Global Compact for Migration (GCM), to be finalized this year, will serve as the framework for strong member state commitments to the rights of uprooted children around the world. The children’s agency has released a six-point agenda for action to protect refugee and migrant children, including best practice recommendations that can be incorporated into both compacts.
June 2018
Forced displacement above 68m in 2017, new global deal on refugees critical. (UNHCR)
Wars, other violence and persecution drove worldwide forced displacement to a new high in 2017 for the fifth year in a row, led by the crisis in Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan’s war, and the flight into Bangladesh from Myanmar of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees. Overwhelmingly it is developing countries that are most affected.
In its annual Global Trends report, released today, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency said 68.5 million people were displaced as of the end of 2017. Among them were 16.2 million people who became displaced during 2017 itself, either for the first time or repeatedly – indicating a huge number of people on the move and equivalent to 44,500 people being displaced each day, or a person becoming displaced every two seconds.
Refugees who have fled their countries to escape conflict and persecution accounted for 25.4 million of the 68.5 million. This is 2.9 million more than in 2016, also the biggest increase UNHCR has seen in a single year. Asylum-seekers, who were still awaiting the outcome of their claims to refugee status as of 31 December 2017, meanwhile rose by around 300,000 to 3.1 million. People displaced inside their own country accounted for 40 million of the total. Across all countries, one in every 110 persons is someone displaced.
“We are at a watershed, where success in managing forced displacement globally requires a new and far more comprehensive approach so that countries and communities aren’t left dealing with this alone,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.
“But there is reason for some hope. Fourteen countries are already pioneering a new blueprint for responding to refugee situations and in a matter of months a new Global Compact on Refugees will be ready for adoption by the United Nations General Assembly. Today, on the eve of World Refugee Day, my message to member states is please support this. No one becomes a refugee by choice; but the rest of us can have a choice about how we help.”
UNHCR’s Global Trends report is released worldwide each year ahead of World Refugee Day (20th June) and tracks forced displacement based on data gathered by UNHCR, governments, and other partners. It does not examine the global asylum environment, which UNHCR reports on separately and which continued in 2017 to see incidents of forced returns, politicization and scapegoating of refugees, refugees being jailed or denied possibility to work, and several countries objecting even to use of the word “refugee”.
Nonetheless, the Global Trends report offers several insights, including in some instances into perceived versus actual realities of forced displacement and how these can sometimes be at odds.
Among these is the notion that the world’s displaced are mainly in countries of the Global North. The data shows the opposite to be true – with fully 85 per cent of refugees in developing countries, many of which are desperately poor and receive little support to care for these populations. Four out of five refugees remain in countries next door to their own.
Large-scale displacement across borders is also less common than the 68 million global displacement figure suggests. Almost two thirds of those forced to flee are internally displaced people who have not left their own countries. Of the 25.4 million refugees, just over a fifth are Palestinians under the care of UNRWA. Of the remainder, for whom UNHCR is responsible, two thirds come from just five countries: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia. An end to conflict in any one of these has potential to significantly influence the wider global displacement picture.
Two other insights from Global Trends are that most refugees live in urban areas (58 per cent) not in camps or rural areas; and that the global displaced population is young – 53 per cent are children, including many who are unaccompanied or separated from their families.
As with the number of countries producing large-scale displacement, the number of countries hosting large numbers was also comparatively few: Turkey remained the world’s leading refugee hosting country in terms of absolute numbers with a population of 3.5 million refugees, mainly Syrians. Lebanon meanwhile hosted the largest number of refugees relative to its national population. In all, 63 per cent of all refugees under UNHCR’s responsibility were in just 10 countries.
Sadly, solutions for all this remained in short supply. Wars and conflict continued to be the major drivers with little visible progress towards peace. Around five million people were able to return to their homes in 2017 with the vast majority returning from internal displacement, but among these were people returning under duress or to fragile contexts. Due to a drop in the number of resettlement places on offer, the number of resettled refugees was down by over 40 per cent at around 100,000 people.
Reporting Forced Displacement – Key Definitions
UNHCR does not use the term ‘migrant’ to describe people who are forced to flee.
Refugee: A person who has fled their country and needs ‘international protection’ because of a risk of violence or persecution were they to return home. This includes people fleeing wars. The term has its roots in international legal instruments, notably the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol and the 1969 OAU Convention. You can acquire refugee status by applying for it individually, or in cases of large influx by being given it on a “prima facie” basis. Refugees cannot be returned to their home country unless it is on a strictly voluntary basis.
Asylum Seeker: A person who has applied on an individual basis for refugee status and is awaiting the result. Asylum seekers are given ‘international protection’ while their claims are being assessed, and like refugees may not be returned home unless it is on a voluntary basis.
Internally displaced person: Internally displaced people, often known by the abbreviation IDPs, are those who are forced to flee their homes to elsewhere in their own country.
Stateless person: Someone who is without a nationality of any country, and consequently lacks the human rights and access to services of those who have citizenship. It is possible to be stateless and a refugee simultaneously.
May 2018
Over 30 million people displaced inside their country in 2017, reports Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre
Conflict and disasters displaced 30.6 million people within their own countries last year, according to a new report from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).
“This is the equivalent of 80,000 people displaced each day,” said Alexandra Bilak, Director of IDMC. “The scale of this displacement is dishearteningly familiar. This report shows why we need a new approach to address the huge costs of internal displacement, not only to individuals, but also to the economy, stability and security of affected countries.”
Key findings from the Global Report on Internal Displacement (GRID 2018) show that new displacement due to conflict and violence reached 11.8 million in 2017, almost double the figure of 6.9 million in 2016. Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 5.5 million of these displacements, followed by the Middle East and North Africa with 4.5 million. This brings the total number of people living in internal displacement due to conflict close to 40 million worldwide.
“The staggering number of people forced to flee from their homes due to conflict and violence must serve as an eye opener to us all,” said Jan Egeland, NRC’s Secretary General. “We are getting better at providing emergency aid, but we need to put a lot more effort into preventing displacement, protecting people, and finding long-term solutions.”
The report also shows that in 2017, disasters displaced 18.8 million people in 135 countries. Of these, 8.6 million displacements were triggered by floods, and 7.5 million by storms, especially tropical cyclones. The worst affected countries were China with 4.5 million, the Philippines with 2.5 million, Cuba and the US each with 1.7 million, and India with 1.3 million displacements.
In 2017, cyclones displaced millions of people around the world, including Mora which struck Bangladesh in May and hurricane Irma that wreaked havoc in the Atlantic in August. Complex emergencies in places like Yemen and South Sudan, involving a breakdown in the rule of law, a weakened economy and limited humanitarian access, also led to significant displacement.
“Internal displacement often heralds the start of broader crises. While we have seen some useful policy progress since the adoption of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement 20 years ago, it is nowhere near enough to cope with, much less reduce, the scale of the problem,” said Bilak.
Bilak added, “without renewed action, we risk failing millions of internally displaced people worldwide, and holding back the development of the countries which host them. It’s time for an honest conversation on the most effective ways to turn the tide on this global crisis. This conversation must be led by affected countries and receive full support from the international community.”
Turn the Tide: Refugee Education in Crisis. (UNHCR)
While the population uprooted by wars and persecution is on the rise worldwide, the numbers of refugee children enrolled in schools is failing to keep pace, according to a new report by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.
The study, Turn the Tide: Refugee Education in Crisis, found that four million refugee children do not attend school, an increase of half a million of out-of-school refugee children in just one year.
By the end of 2017, there were more than 25.4 million refugees around the world, 19.9 million of them under UNHCR’s mandate. More than half – 52 per cent – were children. Among them, 7.4 million were of school age.
“Education is a way to help children heal, but it is also key to rebuilding their countries,” said Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees. “Without education, the future of these children and their communities will be irrevocably damaged.”
Only 61 per cent of refugee children attend primary school, compared to 92 per cent of children globally.
As refugee children get older, this gap grows. Nearly two thirds of refugee children who go to primary school do not make it to secondary school. In total, 23 per cent of refugee children attend secondary school, compared to 84 per cent of children globally.
At tertiary level, the gap becomes a chasm. Globally, enrolment in higher education stands at 37 per cent, while only one per cent of refugees have the same opportunity – a figure that has not changed in three years.
“School is the first place in months or even years where refugee children find any normality,” adds Grandi. “Based on current patterns, unless urgent investment is undertaken, hundreds of thousands more children will join these disturbing statistics.”
The report highlights progress made by those committed to the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants in enrolling an additional 500,000 formerly out-of-school refugee children in 2017. At the same time, it calls for more to be done to ensure all refugees get the quality education they deserve.
The report urges host countries to enrol refugee children in national systems, with a proper curriculum, all the way through primary and secondary school, to allow for recognized qualifications that can be their springboard to university or higher vocational training.
It further notes that countries in developing regions host 92 per cent of the world’s school-age refugees and need more sustained financial support from the international community.
June 2018
Girls on the move: Escaping natural disasters and violent conflict in Eastern Africa. (World Vision)
More than 2.5 million girls have been forced to flee their homes across eastern Africa and are in urgent need of protection, a new report from World Vision has found.
“We met dozens of girls across 10 countries who have been forced to abandon their education because they were driven from their homes due to conflict or climate change,” says Brenda Kariuki, World Vision’s Director of Advocacy in East Africa. “Too many have been separated from their families and have faced neglect, abuse, exploitation or sexual violence.”
The new report, launched by World Vision in Nairobi, calls on the international and national decision-makers to better protect children who have been displaced due to humanitarian crises and fragility.
When Faiza* was 15 years old her village was attacked and she was captured, raped and forced to marry her rapist. For two years, she was held captive, became pregnant and had a baby girl.
“Life was very difficult. My life became one of troubles, of sickness. I suffered a lot, I was not happy, I was thinking of taking my life,” says the girl, originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
When an opportunity came to flee, Faiza left her baby behind and crossed three countries to reach a refugee camp in Kenya.
Similarly, 14-year-old Jackeline was forced to leave her grandmother behind and flee South Sudan on her own when fighting broke out in her village. As a refugee on her own in Uganda, Jackeline felt the only way she could survive was to get married.
‘I wanted someone who could take care of me, someone to provide my basic needs. I wanted to go back and reunite with my grandmother but I feared she was dead. So I went to the man and asked him to take me as his wife,” Jackeline remembers.
In Tanzania, 16-year-old Scola* became a refugee after fleeing her homeland on her own and struggled to adapt to her new surroundings.
“I still had a mission to have a good life. I became sexually active and started to earn some money out of my secret behaviour,” Scola says.
The report, titled Girls on the Move, enables girls who are refugees or internally displaced to share their story and urges aid agencies, governments and decision makers to act. Girls in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda all have shared their experiences.
“Every child we met told us this is not the life they want. The traumas of war, forced displacement and natural disasters have left too many children extremely vulnerable, stripping away their normal safeguards, placing them in situations of high risk, abuse or exploitation, and often spurring continuing cycles of fear and aggression,” Brenda says.
To end violence against children on the move, protect their rights and develop solutions to the most that affect them, particularly in humanitarian and fragile contexts in the region, World Vision has made nine key recommendations.
“We need to make sure that children come first when we’re responding to humanitarian situations and that they are safe from harm. Girls who have fled their homes need to be able to go to school and have access to support to deal with the violence they may have witnessed or experienced,” says Stephen Omollo, World Vision’s Vice President for East Africa.
*names changed to protect identities
* Access the report:
June 2018
World Refugee Day: Dignity and safety of refugees has to be preserved. (IFRC)
With the number of people forcibly displaced climbing to historical levels, and as many governments adopt new and restrictive immigration policies that increase suffering for people searching for asylum and safety, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is calling for the safety and dignity of all people on the move.
“We are extremely concerned to see a decisive movement building up against the principles that have guided our collective response to refugees, asylum seekers and other people on the move,” said IFRC Secretary General, Elhadj As Sy.
“Dignity, safety, and respect for the basic rights that all people have are enshrined in international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law. They are being challenged in a way that we have not seen in decades,” continued Mr Sy.
“We call for the protection of all people, regardless of nationality or immigration status. With regards to refugees and asylum seekers, we call on governments to live up to their commitments made under international law.”
Yesterday, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reported that 68.5 million people had been driven from their homes across the world at the end of 2017, including 16.2 million displaced during 2017.
“We recognize that States have the right to set immigration policies, but this is not in contradiction with the imperative to alleviate the suffering of all children, women and men,” said Mr Sy.
Around the world, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies provide a range of critical services to migrants and refugees, in countries of origin, transit and destination.
June 2018
A new report by the world’s largest humanitarian network is calling on governments to remove the barriers that prevent vulnerable migrants from accessing basic services and humanitarian aid.
Francesco Rocca, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said:
“All people, regardless of immigration status, should have access to basic services and humanitarian assistance.
“There is no need to mistreat people to have proper border control. Preventing access to adequate food, basic health care, and legal advice about their rights is completely unacceptable. Everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect.”
IFRC’s report, New Walled Order: How barriers to basic services turn migration into a humanitarian crisis, identifies a number of factors that prevent vulnerable migrants from accessing the support they need. Such factors range from the overt – including the fear of harassment, arrest or deportation – to the less obvious, which can include prohibitive costs, cultural and linguistic barriers, and a lack of information about their rights.
In addition, in some parts of the world, governments are enacting laws that effectively criminalize humanitarian assistance, including search and rescue and emergency assistance for undocumented migrants.
“This criminalization of compassion is extremely worrying, and could undermine more than a century of humanitarian standards and norms,” said Mr Rocca.
“What’s more, the idea that the prospect of basic assistance or search and rescue somehow acts as a pull factor for migration is simply not true. People decide to move for reasons that are much more profound than this.”
This year, governments are negotiating a new “Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration”. IFRC is advocating for governments to ensure that their domestic laws, policies, procedures and practices comply with existing obligations under international law, and address the protection and assistance needs of migrants. National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are ready to support their authorities to carry out critical humanitarian actions.
Specifically, IFRC is calling on States to:
Ensure that National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and other humanitarian agencies can provide humanitarian services to migrants irrespective of status and without fear of arrest. Such services might include legal information and advice, information on rights, first aid, basic health care and shelter, and psychosocial support.
Create “firewalls” between public services and immigration enforcement. This involves abolishing rules that require health care providers and aid agencies to report on the people they assist to enforcement authorities.
Proactively identify and address factors that prevent migrants from accessing essential health services.
Ensure that domestic laws, policies, procedures and practices comply with existing obligations under international law, and address the protection and assistance needs of migrants.
States have a sovereign right to control their borders, subject to their obligations under international law. However, minimum standards in terms of meeting basic humanitarian needs must nonetheless be upheld to ensure that legal status does not become a barrier to the basic protection of life and dignity.
* Access the IFRC report via the link below:
* AP: Algeria directs 13,000 migrants to the Sahara Desert:
June 2018
Refugees and other migrants do not lose their rights by crossing borders, writes Felipe González Morales, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants.
“Burden,” “cockroaches,” “flood,” “horde”, “illegal,” “rabid dogs,” “rapists,” “terrorists;” these words filled with hatred against people on the move have launched internal conflicts, genocides and wars on our planet in the past century.
These words are used to further the “dehumanisation” of refugees and other migrants, and have permeated political discourse in many countries around the world that has fuelled a climate of exclusion and violence against people on the move.
Public opinion surveys have revealed a consistent over-estimation of the numbers of migrants in many destination countries; and widespread misconceptions about the scale and nature of migration have contributed to prejudice and rising xenophobic populism, which is often fuelled by political leaders and media who use incitement and hatred against migrants for their political advantage.
“Blaming migrants is an easy way for political leaders to gather support from nationals, exploiting and exacerbating sentiments of discrimination and xenophobia. In the absence of substantive public policies to address economic and social problems at home, migrants become an easy target,” said Felipe González Morales, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants.
Concerns about foreigners stealing jobs and representing a burden to society are often in sharp contrast to the evidence, which shows that migrants contribute in diverse ways to the economy and society of communities of origin and destination. Research shows that for example, over the past ten years, migrants represented 47 percent of the increase in the workforce in the United States and 70 percent in Europe.
Further, the vast majority of refugees continue to be hosted by developing countries. According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the countries that host the most refugees are Turkey (3.5 million), Uganda (1.4 million), Pakistan (1.4 million), Lebanon (1 million) and Iran (almost 980,000).
Still, across the world, borders are increasingly securitized or even militarized and the act of crossing a border without a visa – which many refugees and migrants in vulnerable situations are forced to do to seek safety and which, for all migrants, should at most constitute an administrative offence – is criminalized.
In recent weeks, the zero tolerance policy put in place along the United States southern border has led to people caught entering the country irregularly being subjected to criminal prosecution and having their children taken away from them as a result. Almost 2,000 children have been forcibly separated from their parents and detained, causing severe trauma to them and their families.
In Hungary last month, a bill was presented to Parliament that would criminalize human rights monitoring at borders and the work of human rights defenders who provide information, legal aid and assistance to migrants. These prohibitions, and related measures adopted by the Government of Hungary in recent months, stigmatize and harm migrants in vulnerable situations and those who seek asylum.
Such criminalization and dehumanization of migrants and refugees by policies and rhetoric sends the message that they have neither rights, nor a place in society. As a result, some migrants fear harassment by simply being in public spaces, avoid seeking help when they’ve been attacked, and are forced to endure discrimination without being able to seek justice.
“Migrants are affected in many ways by the rhetoric of political extremists. It affects their chances to integrate into the societies they live in; they are labelled as the causes of the problems; their protection under the rule of law is weakened, as they are deprived of many rights that nationals effectively enjoy,” González Morales said. “The most basic human rights of migrants can be at stake, including economic and social rights, the right to liberty and security, and even their right to life.”

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