A Syrian child displaced by fighting in Raqqa peeks through a temporary shelter al-Karamah Camp in northern Syria in early June 2017. Photo: Delil Souleman | AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Forced displacement of civilians across the world is at its highest in decades, says a new report by the UN refugee agency, most of them fleeing conflict zones like Iraq and Syria and seeking asylum in Germany.
At least 722,400 asylum applications were registered in Germany in 2016, an increase from 441,900 in 2015 and 173,100 in 2014, many spurned by conflict in their homelands.
“We have to do better for these people,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Flippo Grandi said in Monday’s report. “For a world in conflict, what is needed is determination and courage, not fear.”
UNHCR highlighted the need for countries and communities supporting refugees and other displaced people to be properly resourced and supported, the absence of which can cause instability, have consequences for life-saving humanitarian work or lead to secondary displacement.
“There was no future where we lived,” UNHCR quoted, a 16-year-old Syrian boy, Tareeq, as saying. “There was no university and no work. There were troops grabbing young children like me, and they send them to war, and they get killed. I wanted to study.”
Tareeq walked to Turkey from Syria. According to the UNHCR report, claims in Turkey dropped from around 133,200 in 2015 to 78,600 in 2016.
Turkey, the fourth-largest recipient of asylum claims according to UNHCR, continues to receive individual asylum claims from nationalities other than Syrians, who receive protection under the Government’s Temporary Protection regime.
“Afghan asylum seekers continued to submit the most claims in 2016 with 34,800, a decrease from the particularly high 63,400 in 2015,” detailed UNHCR. “Similarly, asylum claims from Iraqis remained the second-most common and declined from 53,800 in 2015 to 28,800 in 2016.”
The United States received the second-most asylum claims last year (262,000, a 52 percent increase from 2015), while Italy also saw a sharp increase in asylum claims, going from 83,200 in 2015 to 123,000, making the Mediterranean peninsula the third-most attractive nation, according to the report.
More than 12 million Syrians (65 percent of its population) have been internally displaced or are living outside the country as refugees (5.5 million).
As in the previous year, the third most common country of origin for asylum applications was Iraq with 185,100 claims, a decrease from 2015 (209,200).
“Leaving aside the long-standing Palestinian refugee situation,” wrote UNHCR. “Afghans remained the second-biggest population (4.7 million) followed by Iraqis (4.2 million).
The UNHCR Global Trends study found that 65.6 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide at the end of 2016, which is the most in the seven-decade history of the agency.