Compelling news from the refugee and migrant sector
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Plight of refugees more parlous as world is less welcoming

26 October 20170 comments

More than two million people fleeing wars or persecution who have joined the ranks of the world’s refugees this year are facing more restrictive asylum policies, including in Europe and the United States, the United Nations reports.

And the use of the refugee crisis in localised political battles in exacerbating the desperate circumstances of some of the world’s 65 million displaced people, the UN said.

The most recent refugee cohort includes 650,000 from South Sudan and 500,000 Muslim Rohingya who have escaped violence in Myanmar for Bangladesh over the past five weeks, many of whom are stateless.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said the refugee crisis which started in earnest five years ago was not abating.

“So far in 2017, more than 2 million people have fled their countries as refugees,” Mr Grandi told the UNHCR Executive Committee in Geneva this week.

“They often arrive sick, traumatised and hungry, in remote border locations, in communities affected by poverty and underdevelopment. Many have urgent protection needs – children separated from their families, men, women, girls and boys exposed to sexual and gender-based violence,” he said.

At the end of last year, 17.2 million refugees fell under UNHCR’s mandate, but some of them have returned and others have been resettled. An additional 5 million Palestinian refugees are cared for by UNRWA.

Mr Grandi raised concerns that the refugee issue has been increasingly ‘instrumentalised’ in local and national policies.

“International cooperation has been replaced by fragmented responses, resulting in restrictive immigration and asylum measures, even in countries with their own histories of exile and migration, and a proud tradition of welcome,” he said.

Border closures, measures to limit entry, restrictive asylum procedures, indefinite detention in appalling conditions, and offshore processing had regrettably increased along with a tide of “rising xenophobia”, Mr Grandi said.

“We have observed the protection environment deteriorate in many parts of the world, including in industrialised countries – in Europe, in the United States, in Australia,” he said.

Nearly 1.2 million refugees need resettling globally to third countries, Mr Grandi said.

“It is therefore an issue of major concern that fewer than 100,000 resettlement places are expected to be available this year – a drop of 43 per cent from 2016,” he said.

Traditionally, the United States has taken the largest number of refugees deemed most vulnerable under UNHCR’s resettlement program involving about ten Western receiving countries. Syrian and Congolese refugees led those resettled last year.

The Trump administration last week proposed admitting a maximum of 45,000 refugees next year, the lowest cap in decades, which officials said was necessary to ensure U.S. security, although Democrats and humanitarian groups blasted the decision.

The report also projected slashing funding to the refugee resettlement program by 25 percent.

However, Australia’s refugee intake will increase to 20,000 in 2019.


Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist