World

UNHCR Global Appeal 2018 - 2019

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Matching commitments with action

As we issue this Global Appeal, thousands of people are fleeing their homes every day in search of safety—in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Myanmar, the Syrian Arab Republic (Syria), and elsewhere. Refugees are crossing borders, arriving in remote rural communities, or in sprawling cities affected by urban poverty. Others are uprooted within their own countries, forced from their homes by major security operations or armed clashes, caught up in the midst of conflict, often without the option of making their way to safety abroad.

In 2017, more than 600,000 people crossed from Myanmar to Bangladesh in the space of just a few short weeks, the most rapid outflow since the massive refugee emergencies of the 1990s. Other major crises show no sign of abating, as in Yemen, where two-thirds of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance, and South Sudan, where one in four people is displaced, and refugee outflows continue.

Some protracted crises are now decades old. Conflicts in Afghanistan and Somalia continue to uproot hundreds of thousands of people, leaving millions stranded in exile, and propelling an entire generation of young people across deserts and seas, exposed to terrible risks. At the same time, some refugees and internally displaced people are returning home to those countries, and need support.
For many refugees, the search for safety and protection has become more dangerous. People fleeing gang violence in northern Central America—the majority of whom are women and children—face appalling risks on their journeys in search of refuge. Along the central Mediterranean route to Europe, stretching from sub-Saharan Africa through Libya to Italy, refugees and migrants are exposed to life-threatening violence and exploitation, detention and torture.

At the same time, in certain situations important new dynamics are emerging, with potentially significant consequences.

In Syria, large-scale internal displacement has continued in 2017, but in parallel, space is opening up that has allowed some IDPs, and a much smaller number of refugees, to return home, often in less than optimal conditions and to circumstances of stark devastation. Signs of resilience are nonetheless emerging, and must be nurtured, especially if there is progress on de-escalation. At the same time, sustaining protection in neighbouring host countries, and avoiding pressure for premature return, will be critical during the complex period ahead. In the Lake Chad region, greater stability is emerging, but return must be managed carefully to ensure that it is fully voluntary and sustainable. Iraq too, is entering a complicated new phase, in which grave protection challenges must be overcome and deep divisions addressed, if conflict and displacement are to be progressively resolved.

The same weaknesses in international cooperation that allow crises to emerge and gather force, triggering refugee flows, have also eroded protection for those forced to flee. Certain States—often those least impacted by refugee arrivals—have closed borders, restricting access to asylum and deterring entry. But many refugee-hosting States, particularly those neighbouring conflict zones, keep their borders open and generously host thousands—sometimes millions—of refugees. Across the world, we also see humanity, generosity, resilience, welcome, patience, determination, and understanding, reminding us that extending protection to those in search of refuge is an age-old value, as well as a universal, binding legal obligation.