If there is one photograph of the Syrian refugee crisis that will haunt the world for the years to come, it must be that of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, whose body was washed up on a beach in Turkey in September. The young boy, found lying face-down on a beach near Turkish resort of Bodrum, was one of at least 12 Syrians who drowned attempting to reach Greece from their war-torn country. The latest United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) report — Global Trends, Forced Displacement in 2015 — is not only an eye-opener on the scale of the crisis but also a reminder how little governments of the world have done to tackle the problem, which was in the making for quite some time.
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According to the report, forced displacement increased in 2015, with record-high numbers. By the end of 2015, 65.3 million individuals were forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, generalised violence, or human rights violations. This is 5.8 million more than the previous year (59.5 million). On average, 24 people worldwide were displaced from their homes every minute during 2015 — some 34,000 people per day. This, the report added, compares to 30 per minute in 2014 and six per minute in 2005. Interestingly, developing regions hosted 86% of the world’s refugees. At 13.9 million people, this was the highest figure in more than two decades. The Least Developed Countries provided asylum to 4.2 million refugees, or about 26% of the global total.
While the report is timely and useful to understand the challenge governments have at hand in tackling the crisis, it surprisingly glosses over the crisis of internally displaced people in India. Take, for example, civil strife-induced internal displacement in Chhattisgarh and in other insurgency-hit areas of India such as the North-East or Kashmir. While there is no official figure, civil society organisations in 2013 put the number of displaced people above 3 lakh. This is just one kind of displacement; environmental problems, caste issues and communal riots have also been pushing people out of their homes in large numbers. By overlooking this huge number, the UNHCR has glossed over a refugee crisis that is in no way less critical than what is happening in other parts of the world.