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Refugees: The desperate search for home away from home

Susan Chemusunde Korir feeds refugees from Uganda in Trans Nzoia, Kenya in 2016. Most refugees are hosted by neighbouring countries. [File, Standard]

Did you know 37,000 people are forced from their homes every day? And that one in every 108 people on earth is now displaced?

For the first time ever, the number of displaced people reached 70.8 million at the end of 2018, the UN refugee agency UNHCR says in its Global Trends report released yesterday.

Half of the over 70 million people are children.

The all-time high figure includes refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people who have been forced to flee their homes due to violence, persecution and human rights violations.

Internally displaced persons are a staggering 41.3 million, refugees 25.9 million while asylum seekers are 3.5 million.

The report released ahead of today’s World Refugee Day says the figures are ‘conservative’ as they did not include most of the four million Venezuelans who have fled abroad since 2015.

“With an unabated average of up to 5,000 people leaving Venezuela every day, it is estimated that 5 million people could leave the country by the end of 2019,” the report highlighting the world’s displacement crisis reads.

Just where are the refugees from?

More than two-thirds of the world’s refugees come from five countries: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia the report says.

The top three, Syria (6.7 million), Afghanistan (2.7 million) and South Sudan (Sh2.3 million), make 57 per cent of the total figure.

Syria has held the top position since 2014 owing to the war battering the Middle East country. Those from South Sudan have reduced by 100,000 to 2.3 million in 2018.

“Much of this decline was accounted for by the adjustment of the figures in Uganda following verification which reduced the population by 300,000,” the annual flagship report said.

Poor nations host more

Interestingly, developing countries and not rich Western nations are shouldering the burden of the refugee crisis.

Half of the ten countries with the highest refugee population relative to national population are in sub-Saharan Africa.

Of all countries, Turkey sheltered the greatest number of refugees. It is followed by Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kenya and Uganda.

Source: UNHCR

Syrian refugees

Countries in the Middle East and North Africa with significant numbers of Syrian refugees included Lebanon (944,200), Jordan (676,300), Iraq (252,500) and Egypt (132,900).

Outside the region, countries with large Syrian refugee populations included Germany (532,100), Sweden (109,300), Sudan (93,500), Austria (49,200), the Netherlands (32,100), and Greece 23,900). Denmark (19,700), Bulgaria (17,200), Switzerland (16,600), France (15,800), Armenia (14,700), Norway (13,900) and Spain (13,800).

South Sudanese refugees

Neighboring countries hosted nearly all refugees from South Sudan.

Sudan is the country hosting the largest population of South Sudanese with 852,100 people. This is followed by Uganda (788,800), Ethiopia (422,100), Kenya (115,200) and DRC (95,700).

Somali refugees

The number of Somali refugees worldwide continues to decline slowly with Ethiopia housing 257,200.

This is followed by Kenya (252,500), Yemen (249,000), South Africa (27,100), Germany (23,600), Sweden (21,000), Uganda (18,800), the Netherlands (14,000), Italy (13,400) and Djibouti (12,700). Over 80 per cent of Somali refugees have remained in countries close to Somalia.

DRC refugees

DRC sits as the seventh largest country of origin of refugees, with 720,300 refugees. The majority (85 per cent) is hosted by neighbouring countries including Uganda with a population of 303,100, Rwanda (77,000), Burundi (70,900), the United Republic of Tanzania (Tanzania) (56,600), Zambia (41,500), Angola (37,100), South Sudan (15,600) and the Republic of the Congo (Congo) (11,300). Substantial refugee populations were also hosted by South Africa (26,300), Kenya (24,600) and France (16,500).

Source: UNHCR

Central African Republic refugees

Cameroon hosts about half of them with 274,700, followed by DRC (172,000), Chad (102,100), Congo (24,700) and Sudan (7,000).

The rich countries received United Nations’ reprimand with High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi criticising them for ‘looking inward’.

"This attitude translates practically into a very inward-looking, very restrictive attitude towards people coming to seek safety here ... rejection, pushing back, building walls does not solve the problem," he said.

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