World Refugee Day Reminds Us Just How Many People Are Displaced — and the Numbers Are Staggering

On average, someone is displaced every two seconds. | Gent Shkulliaku/AFP/Getty Images

Citizens born in the U.S. never have to worry about seeking asylum outside of their home country — but such is not the case for many other parts of the world. In fact, 2017 saw a dramatic increase in displaced people worldwide now that certain countries have become more violent, dangerous, and completely unlivable. And even when a person leaves their country, the trouble doesn’t end there. Dangers of human trafficking and abuse — particularly for children — are still present.

‘No one becomes a refugee by choice’

The U.N. Refugee Agency first started observing World Refugee Day back in 2001, and since then, it’s served as an opportunity to raise awareness worldwide. And The Independent reminds us it was 50 years prior to this when nations agreed it was their responsibility to “grant asylum by those rendered stateless by warfare, famine, or natural disasters.”

Filippo Grandi, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, explains, “No one becomes a refugee by choice, but the rest of us can have a choice about how we help.” Since refugee numbers are sharply rising, Grandi suggests a new approach for dealing with the crisis. He also says 14 countries are currently working on a blueprint for a new plan that the U.N. will adopt in the future.

Most refugees are from Syria

According to U.N. data provided by USA Today, on average in 2017, someone became displaced every two seconds in the world. And the country with the most refugees was Syria, with 6.3 million. That marks a 14% increase for just this one country alone.

No country even came close to hitting this number, though Afghanistan was second with 2.6 million. South Sudan had 2.4 million displaced people, Myanmar had 1.2 million, and Somalia had 986,400.

Children are at the biggest risk when it comes to fleeing their home country

A group of Syrian children waiting to board a bus.

Children make up 52% of the refugee population. | Ali Via /AFP/Getty Images

While entire families will often seek asylum, USA Today reports children made up 52% of the refugee population in 2017. In 2009, it was only 41%.

Many of these children are traveling unaccompanied, too, raising their risk of something happening to them before or after they cross into a new country’s borders. Gary Seidman, a spokesperson for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, explained children who are traveling alone “are at greater risk for being exploited, or being hurt, or falling into the hands of traffickers,” as well as “sexual violence and abuse.”

One refugee says ‘dying was better than living in Libya’

Though leaving their home countries is typically far from safe, one refugee recounts their plight to Al Jazeera. Thirty-three-year-old Ammy told the publication she was evacuated from Libya to Niger in May 2018. Ammy explained the abuses she underwent during her travels, which included being beaten, bruised, abused, and kidnapped with her companions. For weeks, she only had bread to eat.

At one point she was even forced on a small, inflatable boat — and she knew traveling across the sea in such a way was impossible. “We knew it wouldn’t work, but dying was better than living in Libya,” she recounted. It was only when she raised the idea of a hunger strike and asked to speak with the UNHCR that her conditions improved.

Another said 50 of his companions died of thirst while escaping

Many other refugees have stories quite similar to Ammy’s. Idriss Ousmane, who’s now a 24-year-old chemical engineering student, left his home country of Eritrea so that he could continue his education and avoid mandatory military service, Al Jazeera reports. He successfully crossed the Sahara in 2016 — but 50 of his companions died of thirst while attempting to get to Libya.

In January 2018, Ousmane left for Niger, where he says, “I can walk, I can smell the air, I am trying to forget my past.” Alternatively, however, Ousmane also wondering when — or if — he’ll ever have the ability to leave.

One in every 110 people in the world is a refugee

A young Syrian child on a bus.

Many of these regufees are unaccompanied minors and children. | AFP/Getty Images

NPR notes every year, more people than ever before are claiming refugee status. A new report from the U.N. notes 68.5 million people have been forcibly displaced. That’s a record-breaking number — and the trend doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon. And 138,700 of these people were unaccompanied or separated children.

According to U.N. data, one person every two seconds is displaced daily, with an average of 44,000 people leaving their home country every day. They also estimated out of every 110 people, one is a refugee.

Just 100,000 refugees were resettled in 2017

A U.N. report says only 100,000 of these people were resettled by the international community in 2017 when 2.9 new refugees were seeking asylum last year, The Independent reports.

As for which countries host the most refugees, NPR reports Turkey’s high on the list, followed by Pakistan and Uganda. Smaller numbers of people are seeking asylum in the U.S., with just 331,700 requests.

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