Special to WorldTribune.com
By John J. Metzler, June 23, 2023
As chaos and conflict seem to be the tragic trend in many parts of the world, a sad parallel follows: Large numbers of people are fleeing and being displaced by the violence.
The numbers are stunningly high and climbing according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR): 108 million people were displaced at the end of 2022 as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, and human rights violations.
In its annual Global Trends Report for 2022, UNHCR presents a sobering view of the human cost of conflict, tragedy and humanitarian disaster. The Report overviews the 108 million displaced people; 35 million refugees, 62.5 million internally displaced people (IDP’s), and 5.4 million asylum seekers.
Let’s explain the complicated terms for a moment as to who’s generally labeled “refugees.”
The UN defines a refugee as “someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear for persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality or political opinion.” Afghans, Syrians, and Ukrainians are among this group.
Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees stated that the consequence of conflicts creates, “devastation, displacement and anguish for each of the millions of people forcibly uprooted from their homes.”
Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees worldwide at 3.6 million people mostly from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Colombia has 2.5 million mostly Venezuelans, while Germany shelters 2.1 million mostly Afghans and Syrians. The United States of America was the world’s largest recipient of new individual applications at 730,000 last year according to the UN. Germany was second with 218,000.
According to the UNHCR, Syrians comprise the largest number of refugees worldwide with 6.5 million, followed by Ukraine at 5.7 million, Afghanistan at 5.7 million and Venezuela 5.4 million.
Significantly during 2022, the number of people forcibly displaced by conflict, violence and human rights violations grew by 21 percent or 19 million people. That growth is equal to the population of the Netherlands or the U.S. state of New York (including New York City)!
UNHCR advises that during 2022, the total number of refugees worldwide rose by a record 35 percent or 8.9 million reaching 34.6 million. The surge was largely due to people fleeing Ukraine following the Russian invasion in 2022. Indeed, the number of refugees throughout Europe rose from 7 million in 2021 to 12 million in 2022!
Internally displaced persons present a totally different challenge. These are people forced to move because of calamity but are still living in their own country, such as 5.9 million Ukrainians or 4.5 million inside Yemen. There are approximately 57 million IDP’s globally ranging from Ethiopia to Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
If there’s a silver lining in the saga it is that during the past year, some 5.7 million IDP’s have returned to their homes; Equally 339,000 refugees have gone back to their home countries.
During 2022, nearly 2.9 million individual asylum applications were registered from 162 countries worldwide; this is the highest number of individual asylum applications ever recorded, according to UNHCR, a 68 percent increase from 2021. The asylum cases have surged with nationals of countries from Latin America/Caribbean notably Venezuela (264,000), Cuba (194,000), Nicaragua (165,000), and Haiti (73,000).
Compared to 2021, the U.S. saw a threefold asylum application surge with 730,000 in 2022.
These are the official numbers which simply do not begin to reflect the chaos, confusion and calamity at the USA’s porous southern border with Mexico which has been flooded with largely economic migrants for the last two years. Despite the valiant efforts of the U.S. Border Patrol to maintain control and process lawful crossings, the system is overwhelmed. In 2022, 2.7 million people crossed illegally surpassing the previous year’s record by more than a million according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. That’s officially so.
The human trafficking rings operating with near impunity in neighboring Mexico have deluged the USA southern border with vulnerable and often indentured people who are entering the country largely “off the books” with many coming into a clandestine netherworld. Since 2021 approximately five million people have illegally entered the U.S.
Refugee resettlement does take place in a legal and orderly way; Canada received the largest number last year accepting 47,000 people. The USA legally resettled 29,000 people in 2022 primarily from the Congo, Syria and Myanmar.
The Biden Administration has failed to effectively control the southern U.S. border thus perpetuating this human tragedy which begs to be solved.
John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He is the author of Divided Dynamism the Diplomacy of Separated Nations: Germany, Korea, China (2014). [See pre-2011 Archives]