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Letter of the Day | Migration crisis dire

Published:Sunday | September 10, 2017 | 12:00 AM


Every minute, about 24 people are forced to leave their homes. While large numbers, such as 65.3 million people displaced worldwide in 2015, can often be hard to comprehend, 24 people equals a group of co-workers, friends or classmates. Now imagine 24 people displaced every minute of every day, and every day of every year. That is the magnitude of the current migration crisis, and it is a problem unseen since the Second World War.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the breakdown of 65.3 million displaced persons in 2015 equals 40.8 million internally displaced persons, 21.3 million refugees, and 3.2 million asylum seekers. There were 12.4 million people newly displaced in 2015, and 10 million were stateless.

The forcibly displaced population today is larger than the total population of the United Kingdom. If those displaced all lived in one country, that country would rank 21st globally by population. And half are children who are often forced to migrate alone.

A majority of those displaced, 86 per cent, are from low- and middle-income countries and are close to conflict. More than half, 54 per cent, are from either Syria, Afghanistan or Somalia.

What causes this mass migration? Sometimes it's natural disasters, which have affected about 218 million people over the last two decades. Often, people face extreme war and conflict, which drives 80 per cent of humanitarian need. Fragile states are home to 43 per cent of the global population, 76 per cent of whom live in extreme poverty.

Two-thirds of the countries considered to be fragile states did not meet Millennium Development Goal 1, which aimed to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by 2015. If these states cannot reduce conflict and build good governance by 2030, about 60 per cent of the people living in fragile states will be living on less than US$1.25 a day.


Ongoing crisis


One example of a fragile state is Syria, which has been in conflict since 2011. At the end of 2015, 13.5 million people were in need of humanitarian aid, including 6.5 million people who were internally displaced. This ongoing crisis, which has caused so many to flee, has had devastating effects on the Syrian people. Life expectancy has been slashed by more than 20 years, school attendance has dropped by 50 per cent, and the country's economy has contracted by 40 per cent.

Countries housing displaced persons are struggling to cope with the influx of people. In 2015, more than one million crossed into Europe, with about 90 per cent heading to Turkey, Pakistan or Lebanon. Turkey alone hosted 2.54 million refugees in 2015.

According to the International Organization of Migration, one million migrants travelled by sea in 2015, and nearly 35,000 by land. Since 2000, 46,000 people have died migrating, with 10,400 of those dying in 2014 and 2015 alone. While aid has increased over the past three years, reaching $28 billion in 2015, the United Nations was unable to meet 45 per cent of country appeals for assistance last year.