Sunday, September 04, 2016

The Other Refugee Crises

34,000 people are forcibly displaced every single day, a tiny fraction of the causes behind this global crisis receive the attention, political focus and financial support they deserve. The UN says there are now 65.3 million people worldwide who have had to flee their homes.

South Sudan
One in every five people in South Sudan have been forced to flee their homes, including 1.66 million displaced internally within the country and up to 800,000 becoming refugees elsewhere. 1,500 people a day are fleeing just into Uganda. That’s similar to the daily arrivals across the entire continent of Europe in 2016. The migration flows appear to go both ways. South Sudan is itself hosting more than 260,000 refugees from other countries. Compare that to the wealthy European nations that have offered homes to no more than a couple of hundred asylum-seekers each.

Kennedy Mabonga, regional director for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in the Horn of Africa explains, “They are fleeing all sorts of abuses, torture, deliberate attacks from the military.” But they are not just fleeing for their lives, he says. Because of the entrenched fighting, there has been no time to cultivate crops, the economy has been hit by devastating hyperinflation - and there is widespread flooding caused by the El Nino weather effect. 87 per cent of those fleeing are women and children. “It is a silent crisis,” Mr Mabonga says. “We are talking about huge numbers – half a million arriving in a small country - but the world doesn’t see this. And as a result, funding is not adequate to keep them going.”

Yemen

The UN estimates that over 82 per cent of the population of the country, 21.2 million people, are now classified as requiring urgent humanitarian assistance. That ranks it as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. The number of displaced people has now hit 3.1 million. A remarkable fact is that the people of Yemen appear reluctant to flee their homes despite lack of access to food and water plus the constant threat of air strikes. As of July this year, only 179,661 people had fled to neighbouring countries. Mr Mabonga says, “Their property is there, their lives are there, so they don’t see leaving as an option.”

Myanmar

The latest figures for one of the most persecuted minorities on the planet, the Rohingya, suggest there are 512,466 refugees from Burma in neighbouring countries, as well as 644,000 internally displaced in the country itself. Great numbers still live in informal settlements in Bangladesh, where their lack of acknowledgement from officials mean they are subjected to violence, abuse and police corruption.
“There is a complete lack of protection, both in Myanmar (Burma) and Bangladesh as well,” Richard Skretteberg, a senior advisor at NRC says, “so they are in a very desperate situation, and they have been for several years now.”
 In Myanmar itself with the military still maintaining control of almost all aspects it and Aung San Suu Kyi remaining silent on the issue, hopes for progress are fading.

Burundi

A tiny but densely populated country, Burundi has nonetheless seen more than 260,000 people flee in the year since it collapsed into political crisis. The UN says it is preparing for 330,000 to have fled by the end of the year. Those arriving at camps in neighbouring Tanzania tell stories of people being killed for “belonging to the wrong group”. Once again, women and children make up the majority of Burundian refugees, with men staying behind to try and protect the family home.

Central America/Mexico

People are being forced to flee violence and persecution in the Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala), as well as those fleeing Mexico into the US and trying to escape the now improving conflict in Colombia. Tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people are forced to flee their homes because of weak state institutions and often drugs-related violence. Mr Skretteberg related, “There is without doubt displacement because of violence, they are threatened by these gangs, and they are fleeing because they need protection. In that sense they are not migrants, they are refugees.
Last year a UN report found that around 50,000 of the migrants entering the US from Central America were children, and “urgent action” was required to give them protection.

Central African Republic

Covering a vast swathe of mineral-rich and fertile land, the country has been in an chronic state of instability and violence since achieving its independence from France in 1960. CAR has a tiny population of around 4.6 million people. The UN says the equivalent of one tenth of the population - 467,800 at latest count - are refugees in other countries, while there are more than 380,000 internally displaced.
 CAR is ranked 187 out of 188 on the UN’s development index.



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