The United Nations refugee agency warns that a rising number of people are fleeing conflict and persecution around the world at a time when more and more countries are closing their doors.
U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi says global displacement was at record levels when he took office in January 2016, but the number of displaced has since increased to 68.5 million — with 28 million of them refugees.
The crisis affects nearly every region of the world — the Middle East, Africa, Central America, Asia and even in Europe, in Ukraine — and while neighboring countries largely have kept their borders open to refugees, some have not, Grandi says. He notes that most of the burden falls upon poor, developing countries that host 84 percent of the world’s refugees.
“Yet, further afield, often in rich countries, the trend is toward making it difficult for people to seek asylum — even by closing borders and pushing people away,” he said. “Children separated from their parents, leaving psychological scars that will last a lifetime. … Refugees dehumanized, treated as a commodity, passed from one state to another.”
Grandi says it is becoming increasingly difficult to ask poor countries to keep their doors open to refugees when some of the world’s richest countries are closing theirs. However, he says, a few examples offer glimmers of hope.
The recent peace accord between Eritrea and Ethiopia, for example, may ease the displacement crisis in the Horn of Africa. Grandi also notes the revitalized peace agreement in South Sudan, where more than four million people have been displaced since a civil war began in 2013.