Wars drive number of forcibly displaced people to record high, UN says

Palestinians have fleeing Rafah for weeks (Reuters)
Palestinians have fleeing Rafah for weeks (Reuters)

The number of people forcibly displaced in the world through wars, persecution and disasters, natural and man -made, rose to a record 117.3 million last year with the situation likely to get even worse, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has said.

Forced displacement has continued to rise in the first four months of this year, and the total of those affected is expected to reach 120 million in the near future, with no end to global strife in sight.

"These are refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced people, people being forced away by conflict, by persecution, by different and increasingly complex forms of violence," said Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

The Israeli offensive in Gaza has led to 80 per cent of the territory’s population, 1.7 million people, to flee, often being driven from one refuge to another as Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has expanded the operation. Those who had fled across the border into Egypt, the UNHCR report said, may find themselves stranded.

"Another refugee crisis outside Gaza would be catastrophic on all levels, including because we have no guarantee that the people will be able to return to Gaza one day," Mr Grandi said.

The civil war in Sudan, which has faded from international focus, has been "one of the most catastrophic ones" unfolding with more that nine million people internally displaced and another two million have fled to neighbouring countries including Chad, Egypt and South Sudan.

While existing conflicts continue, the unstable international geopolitics could lead to more rather than less violence unfolding, says the report. "Unless there is a shift in international geopolitics, unfortunately, I actually see that figure continuing to go up,” Mr Grandi said.