Conflicts, violence and persecution in Myanmar, South Sudan, Syria and elsewhere have forced more than two million people to flee as refugees this year, the UN refugee chief said Monday.
At the end of 2016, a record 65.6 million people had been uprooted from their homes worldwide, with 22.5 million of them registered as refugees.
“The despair of millions of men, women and children driven from their homes, cast adrift into a life of uncertainty, is a stain on our collective conscience,” Filippo Grandi told UNHCR’s annual Executive Committee meeting in Geneva.
Calling for more international cooperation and support to address the crisis, he pointed to the dire needs of the more than half a million Rohingya Muslims who crossed into Bangladesh from Myanmar since August 25.
During the same period, 50,000 refugees had flooded out of South Sudan and another 18,000 had fled clashes in the Central African Republic, he said.
War-ravaged Syria continues to account for the world’s largest number of forcibly displaced people, with civilians there still bearing the brunt of clashes.
Grandi warned that refugee rights and protection were eroding worldwide, including in Europe and the United States, “driven by confused, sometimes frightened public opinions often stirred up by irresponsible politicians.”
“Border closures,… restrictive asylum procedures, indefinite detention in appalling conditions, offshore processing, pressure for premature returns all have regrettably proliferated,” he said.
He said resettlement was vital to addressing the growing refugee problem and decried that countries were dragging their feet.
“Close to 1.2 million refugees need resettling globally,” he said, voicing “major concern that fewer than 100,000 resettlement places are expected to be available this year, a drop of 43 percent from 2016.”
Grandi also warned that his organisation was facing a dramatic funding shortage and was increasingly being “faced with impossible choices”, which in some cases was leaving refugees without protection and host communities without support.
In 2016, UNHCR had $4.4 billion available funds, but still ended the year with a 41-percent shortfall.
And this year, the agency expects to receive less, with $4.2 billion available, leaving nearly half of the needs unmet, Grandi warned.