OTTAWA: Wars, violence and persecution worldwide drove refugee numbers to a fifth-straight record high in 2017, with Canada becoming the ninth-largest recipient of asylum seekers in the world, says a new UN report.
The annual Global Trends report from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees shows the world total of displaced people was 68.5 million last year.
In 2017 alone, more than 16 million people were newly displaced.
Looking at the numbers another way _ an average of one person became a refugee every two seconds last year.
These trends indicate that new, more collaborative solutions are needed to ensure countries and communities aren’t left alone to deal with influxes of migrants, said Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
“We are at a watershed, where success in managing forced displacement globally requires a new and far more comprehensive approach,” he said.
“No one becomes a refugee by choice, but the rest of us can have a choice about how we help.”
More than two-thirds of all refugees worldwide came from just five countries: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia.
For the fourth consecutive year, Turkey hosted the largest number of refugees, a total of 3.5 million people.
Canada was the ninth-largest recipient of asylum seekers, with 47,800 claims registered in 2017 _ more than twice the number of claims in 2016.
And for the first time in five years, the United States became the largest recipient of new asylum applications in 2017, with more than 330,000 claims lodged _ a 27 per cent jump from 2016.
These spikes in the numbers of asylum seekers in Canada and the U.S. have been the focus of heavy debate both at home and south of the border over the last year.
The issue came to a boiling point in recent days with strong backlash over a new U.S. “zero tolerance” policy against illegal asylum seekers who cross into the United States, under which they are charged with federal crimes and separated from their children. The children are detained in guarded, fenced enclosures, prompting widespread condemnation and protest.
Fallout continued Tuesday, with President Donald Trump once again taking to Twitter to defend the policy, blaming the opposition Democrats for weak border security laws.
“They don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our country, like MS-13,” Trump tweeted, referring to the notorious, international criminal gang.
The UN report showed a total of 138,700 unaccompanied and separated child refugees and asylum seekers were reported in 2017 by 63 UNHCR operations.
Despite the stark numbers and increasingly heated political rhetoric, Grandi says he believes there is hope for the world’s refugees.
Fourteen countries are pioneering a new blueprint for responding to refugee situations as part of a global compact on refugees, which will soon be ready for adoption by the UN General Assembly.
“Today, on the eve of World Refugee Day, my message to member states is please support this,” Grandi said.