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The plight of refugees...continuing into 2016

If there is one topic which dominated the news in 2015, it was probably refugees, in their thousands upon thousands, seen fleeing the Middle East and seeking haven in Europe.    Sad to say, 2016 isn't shaping up to be a better year for those who continue to still be fleeing persecution

"The number of people forced to flee war is expected to far surpass 60 million in 2015, the United Nations said on Friday, warning that violence around the globe is likely to push a record number of asylum seekers even higher in the coming year.

At least five million people were forcibly displaced from their homes in the first half of the year, adding to the 59.5 million displaced people the United Nations refugee agency had recorded by the end of 2014. One in every 122 humans today is someone who has been forced to flee from home, the agency said.

Most of the people on the move in 2015 were displaced within their own country, but as many 839,000 people fled across international borders in the first half of the year, more than a third of them trying to escape the war in Syria.

To make matters worse, the funds available to help the increasing number of people fleeing conflict had fallen far behind the level of need, António Guterres, the departing United Nations high commissioner for refugees, told reporters in Geneva.

“It’s clear humanitarian actors are no longer able to provide the minimum support both in relation to core protection and lifesaving activities,” he said.

Moreover, few refugees were able to return to their own country. Only 124,000 such people returned home in 2014, down from a million a decade ago. The United Nations reported that the number of returning citizens dropped an additional 20 percent in the first half of this year.

The refugee agency’s assessment came as the International Organization for Migration said the number of refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean to Europe would likely exceed a million arrivals for the year in a matter of days.

By Wednesday, total boat arrivals had reached 956,456, more than 80 percent of them landing in Greece. Unlike previous years, when cold weather and stormy seas discouraged migration by boat, the flow of asylum seekers in the Aegean was “robust and dangerous,” Joel Millman, a spokesman for the organization in Geneva told reporters.

The dangers facing those still trying to reach Europe — more than 30,000 refugees had arrived by boat in Greece this week — remained grave. An 80-year-old man and a 9-month-old child drowned off the island of Lesbos on Wednesday when a boat carrying 85 people capsized in strong winds and high waves, according to Doctors Without Borders.

“2015 will be remembered as a year of human suffering and migrant tragedies,” William Lacy Swing, the director general of the International Organization for Migration, said in a statement released Friday. Over 5,000 migrants and asylum seekers had died in search of protection and a better life, he said, “and millions have been made into scapegoats and become the targets of xenophobic policies and alarmist rhetoric.”


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