1. There are more people displaced by violence and conflict on the planet right now than at any time since World War II. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says the number of people forcibly displaced, including refugees, asylum-seekers, and internally displaced persons has now reached over 51 million.
The world’s refugee population is greater than that of Spain, South Korea, or Canada.
A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country and who has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. At the end of 2013, there were 16.7 million refugees around the world.
An internally displaced person (IDP) is someone who flees conflict and violence to another part of their own country. For every refugee in the world, there are two IDPs. At the end of 2013 there were 33.3 million IDPs.
Refugees en route to Irbil, Iraq, June 12, 2014 [AP File Photo]
3. What kinds of people are refugees?
More than 50 percent of refugees worldwide are women and children. While you might think they all live in refugee camps, more than two-thirds live in cities, towns, and villages.
Conflict does not discriminate based on education level or social status: refugees come from all walks of life. They might be doctors, teachers, university students, farmers or small business owners.
More than half of refugees recognized by UNHCR have been unable to return to their homes for more than five years, and if you add in Palestinians (who are counted separately), that number jumps to over 67 percent. The largest refugee nationalities are Afghans, Syrians, and Somalis. These three populations add up to be more than 50 percent of refugees worldwide.
A Syrian child walks in the mud through the Fadaya Camp, March 9, 2014. [AP File Photo]
4. The international community is responding to three “Level 3 emergencies” at the same time. What does that mean?
“Level 3” is a UN designation for highest level of humanitarian crisis. Right now, there are Level 3 emergencies in Syria, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic. These three emergencies alone have forced millions of people to flee for their lives.
The United States is the largest single donor to humanitarian activities worldwide, providing some $5 billion in 2013.
That includes more than $2 billion to save lives and ease suffering caused by the fighting in Syria, with programs helping 4.7 million people in Syria and more than 2.8 million refugees in neighboring countries.
We also assist the millions who have fled persecution in Burma, Afghanistan, and many other places around the world.
Our assistance saves lives, upholds human dignity, helps stabilize volatile situations, and prevents or mitigates conditions that breed extremism and violence. When refugees, IDPs, and asylum seekers have no one else in the world to stand for them and help them survive, the United States is here and will help.
We resettle more refugees in the United States than all other countries combined -- 70,000 in 2013. The United States was built by people who fled oppression and war, leapt at opportunity, and worked day and night to reinvent themselves in this new land. The refugees who arrive in the United States today continue this tradition, renewing the qualities that make our country strong.
About the Author: Anjalina Sen serves as a Public Affairs Officer for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration at the U.S. Department of State.
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