World’s forcibly-displaced population hits a record 38 million

Violence over economic disparity key reason for displacement, Syria, Iraq worst-hit countries

By Rajit Sengupta
Published: Friday 08 May 2015

Displaced Iraqi women from Ramadi district in Al Anbar Governorate, Iraq  (Credit: UN)

Over 30,000 people were displaced from their homes every day as a result of violence or conflict across the world in 2014. What is worse, the population of displaced people globally stands at an all-time high of 38 million—a figure higher than the combined population of London, New York and Beijing.

The “Global Overview 2015: People internally displaced by conflict and violence” report, released by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva recently, says that 11 million people were newly displaced by violent events throughout 2014.

The report also shows that 60 per cent of people newly displaced were from five countries: Iraq, South Sudan, Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Nigeria because of protracted crises in these areas.

“This report should be a tremendous wake-up call. We must break this trend where millions of men, women and children are becoming trapped in conflict zones around the world,” said Jan Egeland, secretary-general, NRC.

Worst-hit countries

Syria is the worst-hit country with half of its population (7.6 million) displaced. Iraq has suffered the most displacement in 2014, with at least 2.2 million people fleeing from areas that fell under the Islamic State control.

The chart showing global internal displacement (Credit: Norwegian Refugee Council)

Another worrying fact is that for the first time in more than a decade, Europe also witnessed a massive enforced displacement because of the war in Ukraine, an event that forced 646,500 people to flee their homes in 2014.

Inequity blamed for displacement

Extreme disparities in wealth, education and other areas of human development have led to an increased marginalisation in certain areas.

This, according to the report, has resulted in an exponential growth in non-state armed groups that are responsible for the bulk of recent displacements.

“Today significant displacement is caused by such groups across the world, from ISIL in the Middle East and Al-Shabaab in the Horn of Africa to separatist forces in eastern Ukraine and criminal groups in Latin America…. Today’s armed conflicts pot civilians in harm’s way as never before,” the report reads.

Such localised conflicts are also creating a “domino effect” on its neighbours. “Nigeria’s internal conflict spilled over and caused internal displacement in Cameroon and Niger in 2014,” the report says.

The report warns that displacement because of economic inequity has resulted in a long-lasting or protracted displacement. It says that in 2014, there were people living as a result of displacement for 10 years or more in nearly 90 per cent of the 60 countries and territories.

The majority of protracted displacement is the result “of a failure to anchor internally displaced people’s return, local integration”, it adds.

“We know that more and more internally displaced have been forced to move within their country multiple times,” said Volker Türk, UNHCR’s assistant high commissioner for protection.
“The longer a conflict lasts, the more insecure (displaced persons) feel and when hopelessness sets in, many will cross borders and become refugees.”

The findings have prompted the United Nations refugee agency to appeal for “an all-out effort to bring about peace in war-ravaged countries.” But whether nations will adhere to the latest call remains to be seen.

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