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Amid Record High Global Displacement, UN Refugee Agency Calls for International Solidarity, Welcomes Canadian Generosity towards Refugees

UNHCR Representative in Canada Jean-Nicolas Beuze, second left, speaks with Syrian refugee Wardah Alabdallah, right, alongside her children. © UNHCR/David Azia

OTTAWA, Canada, June 19 (UNHCR) – Amid a new record high of forced displacement globally, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Canada is calling for renewed international solidarity in finding solutions, and thanking Canadians for their ongoing generosity towards the world’s refugees.

Published today, UNHCR’s annual Global Trends Report shows that the number of people fleeing war, persecution and conflict has exceeded 70 million, the highest level since the Second World War. Though displacements from Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Myanmar continue to account for the largest groups of refugees, the 2019 report also sounds the alarm on a major new humanitarian crisis – the situation in Venezuela. It is currently the world’s fastest growing displacement crisis. According to data from governments receiving them, over four million Venezuelans have left the country since 2015, including scores of pregnant women and mothers with small children.

“Conflict and persecution forced a record number of people to leave their homes in 2018,” said Jean Nicolas Beuze, UNHCR’s Representative in Canada. “UNHCR is calling for renewed international solidarity at a time when the level of displacement far exceeds the rate of solutions, and counts on Canada and Canadians to continue standing with refugees as they have done for decades.”

“In all these crises, the majority of those displaced are women and children who are facing particular risks such as sexual violence or human trafficking,” specified Beuze. “We thank Canada for its leadership in supporting UNHCR and other first-line responders in delivering services that respond specifically to their needs.”

Although most displaced people hope to return home, this is often not possible in the immediate aftermath of their displacement. They must look for other solutions for themselves and their families, including building a life in the host community that first welcomed them, or for a fraction of them – less than 0.5 per cent – being resettled to a third country.

“At a time when global needs are increasing, and hateful rhetoric against refugees is rising, we also need Canada to continue welcoming refugees here as a life-saving solution.”

Resettlement remains an important life-saving tool to ensure the protection of refugees. UNHCR’s report also shows that in 2018, Canada admitted the largest number of resettled refugees (28,100). Most were survivors of violence and torture, or refugees whose life, liberty, safety or other fundamental rights were at risk. Many were vulnerable women and girls. Two thirds of the resettled refugees coming to Canada were privately sponsored by Canadian citizens.

“It is time for us to recognize what these refugees bring to Canada, culturally and economically: they make us a stronger and more prosperous society. We must be proud of standing with refugees and UNHCR applauds the generosity of Canadians in welcoming people fleeing war and persecution and providing them with a strong start as they begin their new life. The Canadian experience shows that welcoming refugees is a win-win. This undoubtedly provides an antidote to the too-often toxic and misleading narratives against displaced people we are hearing globally, and in Canada,” said Beuze.

The full Global Report 2018 is available at https://www.unhcr.org/global-trends-2018-media.html 

Quick Facts:

  • The number of people fleeing war, persecution and conflict exceeded 70 million in 2018. This is the highest level that UNHCR has seen in its almost 70 years.
  • In 2018, the number of refugees reached 25.9 million worldwide, 500,000 more than in 2017.
  • The greatest number of new asylum applications in 2018 was from Venezuelans (341,800).
  • In 2018, every second refugee was a child, many (111,000) alone and without their families. Uganda reported 2,800 refugee children aged five or below alone or separated from their families.
  • About 80% of refugees live in countries neighbouring their countries of origin with nearly 4 in every 5 refugees are in displacement situations that have lasted for at least five years. One in 5 have been in displacement situations that have lasted 20 years or more.

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About UNHCR:

For over 65 years, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has been protecting the rights and well-being of refugees all over the world. It works to ensure that everybody has the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge, having fled violence, persecution, war or disaster at home. Since 1950, it has faced multiple crises on multiple continents, and provided vital assistance to refugees, asylum-seekers, internally displaced and stateless people, many of whom have nobody left to turn to. It helps to save lives and build better futures for millions forced from home.