As the world marks UN World Refugee Day on 20 June, attention is drawn to the staggering increase in the number of people forced to flee their homes due to factors including war, persecution, human rights abuse, and climate change.
According to the latest Global Trends in Forced Displacement report released by the United Nations refugee agency, the figure reached an unprecedented high of 108.4 million in 2022.
The report reveals an alarming increase of 19.1 million displaced individuals compared to the previous year, and more than double the number from a decade ago when it stood at 42.75 million. Notably, three countries account for over half of all refugees: Syria (6.5 million), Ukraine (5.7 million), and Afghanistan (5.7 million).
Turkey currently hosts the largest refugee population worldwide, with nearly 3.6 million individuals seeking shelter there. Iran follows closely with 3.4 million refugees, and Jordan hosts three million. It is noteworthy that 76 percent of all refugees and individuals in need of international protection are hosted by low- and middle-income states, while 70 percent find refuge in neighbouring countries.
Contrary to prevailing rhetoric, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi highlights that the burden of hosting refugees falls primarily on countries with fewer resources, not affluent nations. This dispels the misconception that all refugees are relocating to wealthier countries.
Refugees, as defined by international law, are individuals compelled to leave their home countries to escape persecution or serious threats to their life, physical well-being, or freedom. World Refugee Day aims to raise awareness about the plight of refugees globally.
Meanwhile, more than 180 international initiatives demand full and independent investigations into the events, clear consequences for those responsible, an end to the systematic pushback practices at the European borders, and justice for the victims.
A boat carrying refugees met with disaster as it capsized off the shores of Greece, resulting in the loss of at least 81 lives on 14 June. According to testimonies of the survivors, the Hellenic coast guard towed the boat causing it to capsize.
A week before the disaster, on 8 June, the Council of the European Union agreed on a reform of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). Endorsed by 21 EU countries, the deal aims to address the processing and relocation of asylum seekers, marking a significant departure from existing procedures. The agreement seeks to strike a balance between the interests of border countries, which require greater support in handling asylum seekers, and the concerns of inland nations regarding uncontrolled migration.
“This shipwreck – as well as countless others before – is the direct consequence of political decisions taken to prevent people from arriving in Europe,” said the international organisations in their statement.
The UN Refugee Convention was established in 1951 to protect the rights of refugees in Europe following World War II. In 1967, it was expanded to address displacement beyond Europe.