More than 89 million forced displacements were registered in the world in 2021, a historical record that was further aggravated by the war in Ukraine, raising that figure to 100 million. The reconquest of Afghanistan by the Taliban, the coup d’état in Myanmar, the continuation of the war in Yemen and the Islamist insurgent violence in the Central Sahel region are some of the conflicts that caused the rise in refugees and internally displaced persons for the tenth consecutive year, according to the annual report of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) presented this Thursday.
“The 21st century will be characterized as the century of forced displacement and consequently I think it is extremely worrying that 1 in 78 people in the world is an uprooted person“, he assures in dialogue with PageI12 Juan Carlos Murillo, UNHCR regional representative for the South of Latin America. Murillo welcomes the international response to help the Ukrainians, which included a temporary protection approved by the European Union in 2001 but used for the first time in this conflict, although he demands a similar mobilization for other global humanitarian crises.
Venezuela, Colombia and migration to the United States
In Latin America The report highlights the exodus of Venezuelans who during 2021 continued to go mainly to other countries in the regionproduct of a delicate social and economic situation. “The most recent figures from the R4V Platform, led jointly by the UNHCR and the IOM (International Organization for Migration), show that 6.1 million refugees and migrants. Venezuelans are not only coming south, crossing all of South America going to the Caribbean, but there is also a growing trend that we have of movements through Central America to Mexico and the United States,” explains Murillo.
Within the figure of 53 million displaced people in the world, the situation in Colombia is also worrying. Displacements continue to increase due to the control that illegal armed groups are exercising over some areas of the country, especially in indigenous communities in rural areas. “Colombia is the second country with the highest number of internally displaced persons (6.8 million) after Syria (6.9 million)”, says the UNHCR regional representative. The report presented on Thursday shows that in 2021 alone, another 124,000 people were displaced within the borders of Colombia.
In recent years, hundreds of thousands of Central Americans have crossed through Mexico on their way to the United States. More and more immigrants from other countries such as Cuba or Haiti use that same route in endless and exhausting caravans. The number of migrant apprehensions at the southern border of the United States increased for the fourth consecutive month during Mayreported this Wednesday the Office of Customs and Border Protection, despite the relative hope that the inauguration of President Joe Biden had generated.
“Right now there is a lot of pressure on the US asylum and immigration response system because of the significant increase in the number of arrivals, both of people in need of international protection as refugees, and of migrants in general“, says Murillo, who highlights a declaration recently adopted at the Summit of the Americas held in Los Angeles that highlights the “need to work together with all the countries of the region to provide solutions.”
The impact of the war in Ukraine
Although it focuses on what happened during 2021, the UNHCR report underlines that “it is impossible to ignore” the humanitarian consequences of the war in Ukraine started with the Russian invasion on February 24, with more than seven million people forced to mobilize within the country and more than six million abroad in “one of the largest and fastest displacement crises since World War II”.
The crisis in Ukraine also revealed an intense humanitarian response from Europe, and revealed a striking change in position in countries such as Hungary or Poland, which until now had placed obstacles to the entry of Afghan, Syrian or Iraqi citizens into their territory. From UNHCR, the Costa Rican Murillo welcomes the fact that the European Union and all its member countries have decided to activate the international protection directive for the first time, even though “We would like to see that same response from the international community for all the humanitarian crises we have around the world, whether in Asia, Oceania, Africa or America”.
The contrast between the response to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and others in the world is also reflected in the figures revealed in this latest UNHCR report: 83 per cent of refugees are hosted in low- and middle-income countries. Turkey continues to be the country that hosts the most refugees (3.8 million, mostly from Syria), followed by Colombia (1.8 million, mainly Venezuelans), Uganda (1.5 million from the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and Pakistan (1.5 million Afghans). Only in fifth place is the first developed country on the list, Germany (1.3 million).
Regarding a demographic analysis, the Acnur report also points out differences with “women and children disproportionately exposed to deep-seated discrimination and extreme vulnerability”. In particular, minors represent 30 percent of the world’s population, but 42 percent of all people forced to leave the place where they lived.
Another of the phenomena that most worries UNHCR is the growth of far-right movements that often display anti-immigrant rhetoric, a phenomenon that is unfolding beyond the European continent. “Effectively we are very concerned the increase in discrimination, xenophobia, and above all that refugees or migrants be used as part of the agenda that seeks to have political returns. That is why when we commemorate World Refugee Day on June 20, what we seek is to generate more solidarity, more respect, more tolerance and more hospitality,” Murillo points out in that regard.
The United Kingdom’s “mistake” with Rwanda
The global trends report is released at a time of great controversy over the British attempt to deport asylum seekers to Rwandathanks to an agreement signed between London and Kigali in April that has been highly criticized by international bodies, including the UNHCR itself. The agreement is a “mistake” that could set “catastrophic precedents”said this Wednesday the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Philippo Grandinoting that “it is basically a transfer of responsibilities from a country with structures and resources to another, Rwanda, which does not have the structures for this particular task.”
Grandi warned that many countries in Africa, America and other regions hosting large refugee populations “they could be tempted to do the same as the UK”, something that in his opinion “could make the work of Acnur very difficult”. For his part, Murillo told this newspaper that it should not be overlooked that the refugees “are victims who need international protection because they do not have the protection of their government.” And he reiterates the call to maintain that will to continue providing protection regardless of who you are, where you come from, or when you need it.”