On the eve of World Refugee Day, which falls on June 20, the UN refugee agency has warned of “a record high” of nearly 60 million homeless refugees amid expanding global conflicts. UNHCR
According to data gathered by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) over the course of 2014, the number of people forcibly displaced during the reporting year swelled to a staggering 59.5 million compared to 51.2 million from the previous year.

The figures, collected by the UN agency for its latest “Global Trends: World at War,” suggest that one in every 122 humans is now either a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking asylum. If this were the population of a country, says the UNHCR, it would be the world’s 24th largest.

“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,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres declared in a press release issued Thursday.

“It is terrifying that on the one hand there is more and more impunity for those starting conflicts, and on the other there is seeming utter inability of the international community to work together to stop wars and build and preserve peace,” he said.

The UNHCR report noted that in the past five years, at least 15 conflicts have erupted or reignited.
In Africa, the outbursts of hostilities, many of which are sectarian in nature, have consumed eight countries, including Cote d’Ivoire, the Central African Republic, Libya, Mali, northeastern Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and, more recently, Burundi, said the report.

In the Middle East, Syria, Iraq and Yemen remain ablaze while, in Europe, Ukraine has spawned a displacement crisis subsuming more than 1.3 million people, mostly across the country’s eastern regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, said the report.

In Asia, meanwhile, the unresolved tensions in Kyrgyzstan and in several areas of Myanmar and Pakistan, continue to force people across the countries’ borders, it said.
The plethora of crises and conflicts, said the UN report, has also provoked a dangerous and worsening trend in irregular migration as millions of refugees around the world are pushed into an uncomfortable and deadly dynamic with human traffickers and smugglers as they seek passage to safety.

The overall forced displacement numbers in Europe for the 2014 reporting period totaled an overwhelming 6.7 million, while the numbers of internally displaced in Asia grew 31 percent to 9 million people in 2014.
Alarming figures released by the UNHCR also showed that over half of the world’s total refugees are children.
“For an age of unprecedented mass displacement, we need an unprecedented humanitarian response and a renewed global commitment to tolerance and protection for people fleeing conflict and persecution,” said Guterres.
The European Commission (EC) on Friday called on leaders in Europe “to follow through on their commitment to greater solidarity and shared responsibility in addressing refugee crises.”

“The scale of displacement is immense and, as conflicts persist, the numbers are growing. Almost 60 million people are displaced worldwide — the world has not seen so many people fleeing conflict since the Second World War,” a Commission statement said.
With a crisis situation in the Mediterranean, the statement said the European Commission has set out a European response on managing migration better, including addressing need to save lives, working on root causes with partner countries and fighting against traffickers, as well as long term strategies.

“We are calling on Member States to follow the Commission’s recommendation by committing to an EU-wide pledge to resettle 20,000 refugees from outside Europe over the next two years,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, Gaza’s Palestinian refugees are facing unbearable woes amid shrinking UN-backed aids.
Nayef Abu Hamdi, a Palestinian citizen, was 13 years old when he first came to the Gaza Strip as a refugee in 1948 when the state of Israel was created, and now he still remembers the days before he left his village of Herebia, south of Ashkelon, together with his family.

“Life was very good in the village,” Abu Hamdi says, as he and his family are leading a very hard life in the Shati (Beach) refugee camp in western Gaza city.

Abu Hamdi’s family lives in a house that is no more than 100 square meters and is barely enough for 15 men, women and children. The crumbling walls and the tin-made roof suggest how shabby their house is.

Refugees in the Gaza Strip represent two-thirds of the coastal enclave’s 1.8 million population, where they live in eight camps. The Shati camp houses 90,000 refugees in an overcrowded small area without enough infrastructure.
According to a World Bank report, Gaza’s jobless rates now stand as excruciatingly high as 43 percent.
The 80-year-old refugee told Xinhua that he and his family are living under unbearable conditions, forcing them to rely on aids for food and money.

“In our village before 1948, we used to eat what we plant and all the village residents were unified as if they were one family. None of them counted or relied on foreign donations or aid at that time,” said the old man.
Asked if he wants to say something on the eve of this World Refugee Day, which was approved by the United Nations in 2000, Abu Hamdi said: “In fact I blame all of them for not helping me create a better living for me, my children and other refugees.”

His wife Hanan, who is also a refugee from Be’er Sheva in southern Israel, said that the vast majority of refugees in the Gaza Strip “were all apparently forced to live in a misery kind of life to forget about their legitimate right of return.”
In Lebanon, Syrian refugees are outcrying over injustice.

Every day, when Ahmad Aboul Oueidati, a Syrian refugee in Lebanon, returns from his daily endeavor to support his family, he spends whatever is left of his time to discuss with his fellows the the developments of crisis in their country.

Oueidati, 60, was displaced from the devastated city of Idlib. Lamenting the situation that does not appear to be “easing any soon,” he told Xinhua “our country that once was safe, fancy and civilized is ruined. The sight of dead people in the streets has become familiar.”

Salwa Aboul Hoda, who was displaced from the Damascus region to the Rachaya al-Wadi in the Bekaa valley and once was a teacher in Syria, said that “Syria is going through very rough times and the clashes are despicable. We ask the international community who turned a deaf ear to the rightful demands of the Syrians, why is it still feeding up the crisis?”

In the northern port city of Tripoli, where about 180,000 Syrians are living in dire conditions, most of the displaced believe that the world powers are not serious about finding a solution to the crisis in their home country.

“Since the beginning of the crisis we heard about efforts by the world powers to solve the crisis, but after four years now we discovered that the United States and the others have given us empty promises,” said Ousama al-Rukka from Homs, a 22-year-old student at the Lebanese University in Tripoli. Enditem

-Xinhua

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