Friday, March 8, 2013

Current State of Refugees

This weekend, I am attending the 6th Annual Conference of the Canadian Association for Refugee and Forced Migration Studies at St. Mary's University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. This morning, Furio de Angeles, UNHCR Canada Representative, provided some updated and current statistics on the status of refugees:
  • 15.5 million refugees in the world
  • 26.5 million displaced populations (under the traditional definition of displaced because of conflict in their home country
  • 3.5 million registered stateless people in the world; however, the complete number of stateless people is closer to 12 million
There are two categories of people not included in UNHCR's traditional definition of a "person-of-concern":
  • persons displaced by natural disaster are currently not considered refugees or "traditionally displaced
  • non-permanent residents (temporary foreign workers) displaced by political violence in places such as Libya and Syria
Mr. de Angeles commented upon four current contexts - Syria, Mali, DRC, South Sudan - that are drawing upon most of UNHCR's resources now. Yes, conflict in Somalia and Afghanistan are also important and ongoing, but the above conflicts are emerging and pressing now.

Regarding Syria, the crisis is producing a shocking 7000 refugees each day. Just to put this in perspective, in 2011, there were 2000 new refugees each day worldwide. Syria is a unique context, because 70% of refugees have been displaced from urban settings. Another important aspect is that children are becoming defining victims of this conflict. Unfortunately, Mr. de Angeles reported that there is currently a 70% funding gap in terms of what UNHCR needs to address the needs of people of concern as a result of the Syrian conflict.

Mali, DRC, and South Sudan represent more typical refugee contexts. South Sudan is facing a health crisis among it's refugee population. There is currently a Hepatitis B outbreak in the region, affecting thousands of refugees.

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