The number of people forced to flee their homes due to war, violence or persecution is at its highest level since records began.The conflict in Syria has been a major factor in this increase, but people have also fled other conflicts including in Burundi, the Central African Republic, Iraq, Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen. In total, more than 65 million people have fled their homes – 40.8 million within their own country, 21.3 million as refugees and 3.2 million awaiting asylum decisions in industrialized countries.
The responsibility for providing refugees with shelter, food and health care, as well as jobs and education, is falling disproportionately on poorer countries, which are often struggling to meet the needs of their own people or are at risk of compromising their own stability.
The world’s six richest countries, which make up more than half the global economy, host just 8.88 percent of the world’s refugees and asylum seekers. Among these countries Germany alone hosts over 736,000 people, while the US, UK, France, China and Japan are hosting the remaining 1.4 million between them.
In sharp contrast, half the world’s refugees and asylum seekers – almost 12 million people – are hosted by Jordan, Turkey, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Pakistan, Lebanon and South Africa, whose economies collectively account for less than two percent of the world’s total.
Those who are forced to flee often face treacherous journeys before they reach a safe haven. Families are ripped apart and many end up living in squalid conditions with not enough food, clean water or proper sanitation. Some people spend decades as refugees with no prospect of formal work or a decent education.
This crisis is far too big for any one country to solve alone. To save and protect lives, governments worldwide must act together and responsibly. In a couple of months the United Nations and US President Obama are holding back-to-back summits in New York to address this unprecedented situation. These summits are opportunities for rich countries to commit to offering refuge to far more refugees than almost all have done to date, and for all countries to improve the way people forced to flee are treated