Amnesty International Repost: 2015
In the past two years, the world has witnessed a growing refugee crisis.
In 2013, for the first time since World War II, the number of those forcibly displaced from their homes exceeded 50 million. 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 3 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.
It is clear that the situation in Syria will not allow refugees to go home any time soon. However, Syria’s neighbours are at breaking point – and some have resorted to deeply troubling measures, including denying desperate people entry to their countries and pushing people back into the conflict.
While Syria is the world’s biggest refugee crisis, it is by no means the only one. In Africa people fleeing conflict and persecution in countries like South Sudan, the Central African Republic (CAR), Nigeria and Burundi, have added hundreds of thousands to the longstanding refugee populations from countries such as Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). There are more than three million refugees in subSaharan 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. The South Sudan regional refugee response plan, for example, is only 11% fulfilled. While many African countries have opened their borders to those fleeing conflict, too many refugees and migrants have faced discrimination and abuse in host states. The xenophobic attacks that took place in South Africa in April 2015, for example, left thousands of refugees and migrants displaced in that country.
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.
In April 2015, more than 1,000 people died in the space of ten days while attempting to cross the Mediterranean. As of 31 May 2015, the number of people who drowned making the boat journey from North Africa stood at 1,865, compared to 425 deaths recorded during the same period in 2014. 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.
In South East Asia in May 2015 the world witnessed harrowing scenes as fishing boats crammed with refugees and migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh were pushed back to sea by Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Desperate children, men and women were left without food, water and medical care for a week, before the Philippines and later Indonesia and Malaysia offered to take them in.