Turkey refugee ranking skyrockets within a year

Turkey refugee ranking skyrockets within a year

Turkey refugee ranking skyrockets within a year

Some of 1.1 million people fled across international borders in 2012, while 6.5 million were displaced within their homelands, the UN refugee agency says. REUTERS photo

The rising number of Syrian refugees has skyrocketed Turkey’s ranking among the most important refugee-hosting countries from 59th to 10th in 2012, a study by the United Nations refugee agency showed yesterday.

Combined with other refugee populations, the total number of refugees in Turkey was 267,100 in 2012, moving it from the 59th to the 10th place. In no other country had the change been so dramatic, the report said. War and other crises drove one person from their home every 4.1 seconds last year, pushing the number of people forcibly displaced to a two-decade high of 45.2 million, according to the report.

Conflict in countries including Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia created millions of new refugees in 2012, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said. The annual figures showed 1.1 million people fled across international borders in 2012, while 6.5 million were displaced within their homelands.

“This means one in each 4.1 seconds. So each time you blink, another person is forced to flee,” Antonio Guterres, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, told reporters. “War is the main reason for this very high number of refugees and people internally displaced. Fifty-five percent of them correspond to the well-known situations of Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Sudan and Syria,” Guterres said. The largest number of refugees still comes from Afghanistan, a situation unchanged for 32 years. Worldwide, one refugee in four is Afghan. Guterres also highlighted the conflicts in Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic.

Due to the raft of crises, he said, the total number of refugees and internally displaced has risen to a level unseen since 1994, a year marked by the Rwandan genocide and bloodshed in former Yugoslavia.

With one exception, Turkey, the 10 major refugee-hosting countries in 2012 were the same as in 2011. The United States dropped out of the list of the top 10. Together, these 10 countries hosted 5.8 million or 55 percent of all refugees worldwide. Pakistan remained the world’s top host nation in 2012, with 1.6 million refugees, mostly from Afghanistan. It was followed by Iran with 868,200 and Germany with 589,700. Some 46 percent of the globe’s refugees are under 18.

Refugee numbers ‘could hit’ 3.5 million

The U.N.’s refugee agency said more than 307,700 Syrian refugees arrived over the course of the year and were granted temporary protection by the Turkish government. With the return of 68,600 people to Syria, the number was 248,500 at the end of 2012. Turkey meanwhile ranked third in the number of refugee departures with 68,800 people following Pakistan and Liberia.

The UNHCR has warned that Syrian refugee numbers could hit 3.5 million by the end of this year; and there are also fears that the number currently displaced within the country, 4.25 million, will also climb. Syrian refugees have flooded into neighboring countries, stretching those nations’ ability to cope. Guterres urged the international community to help shoulder the load, although he said UNHCR-brokered resettlement programs for Syrians in rich countries were not yet on the cards.

With the economic crisis sharpening the asylum debate in developed nations, Guterres said it was important to keep some perspective. “Who is supporting refugees in the world?” he asked. “Essentially, developing countries.” He said 87 percent of the world’s refugees were protected by developing countries, up from 70 percent a decade ago.