It is an appalling comment on the state of the world that we all have got used to the terrible fact that a record 65.6 million people had been uprooted from their homes at the end of 2016, according to the United Nations. This is the highest number since the UN started recording, and the human race’s acceptance of this as a reality is a damning indictment of our ability to become immune to tragedy.
It is shocking that political inaction and donor fatigue have taken over from an over-rising desire to end this tragedy. It is wrong that a global banking crisis was able to mobilise billions of dollars, while refugees have make do with millions that keep them in camps but offer them no security or future.
The largest population of refugees comes from Syria, where 5.5 million have crossed borders to flee the fighting and 6.3 million have been internally displaced and remain within Syria. The terrible total of 11.8 million people are facing a world in which they see no hope of a secure future. Their country is being divided up and fought over by local warlords and great powers are scrambling to manipulate the fighting to seek their own political advantage. Neither the Syrian leaders nor the great powers are putting people first, and the world at large is acquiescing in this man-made tragedy.
But worse is that the money promised at ‘crisis conference after crisis conference’ never fully materialised and has started to dwindle away. As the Syrian civil war rages on, desperately needed funding for humanitarian aid in the country has begun to dwindle, according to UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi, who lamented that very little of the billions promised at yet another international donor’s conference in Brussels in April had so far materialised.
Syria is the largest and most important refugee crisis, and it needs both aid and a political solution that can offer some security to the people. But on World Refugee Day we should also remember the 2.5 million refugees from Afghanistan, and 1.4 million from South Sudan, and the many millions caught up in violence in countries like Iraq, Somalia, and Libya.
All of these are man-made tragedies, and we should be ashamed of ourselves as a race that we can permit such horrors. This comment has been full of “millions”, and we should know that even “one” is one too many.