Top UN refugee official on Monday said over two million people fleeing wars or persecution joined the ranks of the world’s refugees this year, but often face more restrictive asylum policies, especially in Europe and the U.S.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi told the commission’s Executive Committee in Geneva that “these people include 650,000 from South Sudan and 500,000 Muslim Rohingya.
“They escaped violence in Myanmar for Bangladesh over the past five weeks, many of the latter stateless.
“So far in 2017, more than two million people fled their countries as refugees.”
According to him, the refugees often arrive sick, traumatised and hungry in remote border locations in communities affected by poverty and underdevelopment.
He explained that “many have urgent protection needs – children separated from their families, men, women, girls and boys exposed to sexual and gender-based violence.”
He added that at the end of 2016, 17.2 million refugees fell under UNHCR’s mandate, but some of them had returned to their countries of origin, while others resettled.
Grandi expressed concern that the refugee issue had been increasingly instrumentalised in local and national policies.
He said “international cooperation has been replaced by fragmented responses, resulting in restrictive immigration and asylum measures, even in countries with histories of exile and migration and proud tradition of welcome.
“Border closures, measures to limit entry, restrictive asylum procedures, indefinite detention in appalling conditions, and offshore processing had regrettably increased,’’ he said, decrying rising xenophobia.
He said UNHCR observed that protection environment had deteriorated in many parts of the world, including in industrialised countries, in Europe, in the U.S, in Australia.
“Nearly 1.2 million refugees need to be resettled globally; it is therefore an issue of major concern that fewer than 100,000 resettlement places are available this year – a drop of 43 per cent from 2016.”
Traditionally, U.S. took the largest number of refugees deemed most vulnerable under UNHCR’s resettlement programme involving about 10 western receiving countries.
Syrian and Congolese refugees led those resettled in 2016.
The Donald Trump administration in the U.S. recently proposed admitting a maximum of 45,000 refugees through to 2018, the lowest cap in decades, which officials said was necessary to ensure U.S. security, although Democrats and humanitarian groups blasted the decision.
The report also projected slashing funding to the refugee resettlement programme by 25 per cent.