By IPS World Desk
ROME, Jun 13 2017 (IPS) – Against the backdrop of increasing refugee numbers around the globe, fuelled by crisis and insecurity, and an ever-widening gap in places to resettle them, the top United Nations official dealing with refugee issues has called on governments to “step up” and deliver places for refugees in line with the commitments they have made.“The fact is global resettlement needs today far outweigh the places made available by governments by a factor of 13 to one, despite more countries taking part in the programme and an increase in private sector and community involvement,” on June 12 said Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) at the opening of the UN agency’s annual resettlement consultations in Geneva, Switzerland.
Close to 1.2 million refugees need resettling globally, but only 93,200 places in resettlement countries are expected to be available this year – 43 per cent fewer than in 2016. For refugees from sub-Saharan Africa the situation is especially acute – with just 18,000 available places for more than half a million refugees.
“The New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants was a milestone in global solidarity with refugees and the mainly developing countries which host almost 9 in 10 of them. But true sharing of responsibility requires places for refugees in third countries on a scale in line with the needs. We need urgent action to get there,” Grandi said.
The UN refugees agency’s report UNHCR Projected Global Resettlement Needs in 2018 estimates some 1.2 million refugees need a third country solution in the coming year – a slight increase from the previous year.
This includes more than 510,000 refugees in 34 different countries across Africa, some 280,000 in the Middle East, 302,000 in Europe (mostly in Turkey), over 100,000 in Asia and some 1,800 in the Americas.
The UNHCR report tabled at the Geneva meeting notes that the widening gap between needs and places in 2017 follows a year of several positive achievements in the global resettlement programme.
In 2016, UNHCR submitted more than 162,500 refugees for resettlement – the highest number in 20 years – and more than 125,800 started new lives in third countries. Almost half of the refugees submitted were Syrians, while 44,000 were from sub-Saharan Africa – the highest from this region in almost 15 years.
The number of resettlement states grew to 37 in 2016, with some European governments setting up programmes for the first time and Argentina and Brazil, amongst others, making new commitments to resettle Syrian refugees, the UN agency informs.
“Despite the rhetoric against refugees in some quarters we have also seen an outpouring of good will, with ordinary citizens sponsoring refugees to live in their countries, inviting them into their homes and helping them to find jobs,” Grandi added.
He also noted that the increased engagement of civil society and the private sector embodies the spirit of the New York Declaration, which calls for all parts of society to play a role in the global response to large movements of refugees.
“Resettlement places not only help those refugees who face extreme difficulty in their first country of asylum, but are an important gesture of solidarity with countries hosting large numbers of refugees.”
The New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants was adopted on 19 September 2016 by 193 Member States of the United Nations.
In it governments committed – amongst other objectives – to work on increasing resettlement places and other legal pathways for admission of refugees on a scale that would match the annual resettlement needs identified by UNHCR.
Refugees in need of resettlement are those people identified by UNHCR as having particular problems in the countries where they have sought refuge because their life, liberty, safety, health or other fundamental rights are at risk.
“We need urgent action to get there,” he underscored.
“Despite the rhetoric against refugees in some quarters we have also seen an outpouring of good will, with ordinary citizens sponsoring refugees to live in their countries, inviting them into their homes and helping them to find jobs,” Grandi added, urging all partners to support ways to provide additional places for refugees.
“Resettlement places not only help those refugees who face extreme difficulty in their first country of asylum, but are an important gesture of solidarity with countries hosting large numbers of refugees,” he said.
By IPS World Desk