ISLAMABAD: Millions marked World Refugee Day (WRD) with events across the globe as UNHCR reported that the number of forcibly displaced people was higher than it had ever been in history.
UNHCR’s annual Global Trends Report (GTR) which was released on 20 June said 65.3 million people were displaced as of the end of 2015, compared to 59.5 million just twelve months earlier. This is the first time that the threshold of 60 million has been crossed.
In Islamabad, government officials, heads of diplomatic missions and UN agencies, UN staff and a large number of refugees from different countries attended the WRD event to commemorate the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees.
Refugee children presented a mime drama depicting the lives of refugees; capoeira performance and cultural songs to mark this year’s WRD. A painting exhibition, showcasing the art of emerging refugee and Pakistani artists was also displayed on the subject of hope and courage.
UNHCR’s Representative in Pakistan, Mr. Indrika Ratwatte paid rich tribute to the resilience of refugees and the generosity of host communities that provides shelter and protection for refugees. Ratwatte said that UNHCR works for a world where every person forced to flee can be protected and build a better future.
Talking about factors contributing to the rise of forced displacement, Mr Ratwatte said, “the reasons are threefold,” he elaborated; “i) the lack of lasting solutions to new and protracted situations; ii) the increase of new situation causing exponential forced displacement and, iii) inequitable responsibility sharing by the international community.”
He also stressed that the world needs to find new approaches and solutions and demonstrate political will to address the issue of displacement.
In his WRD speech, Federal Minister of States and Frontier Regions, Lt. Gen. Abdul Qadir Baloch said that the growing number of displacement globally and shrinking humanitarian funding is adversely affecting Pakistan, who has been hosting the world’s largest protracted refugee population.
Minister Baloch said, “The issue of refugees affects and involves us all, and what it needs is understanding, compassion and a firm resolve to come together and find real answers for the refugee plight.”
UNHCR’s annual Global Trends Report indicates that Pakistan with 1.5 million registered Afghan refugees remains among the world’s leading refugee hosting countries. 74 per cent of registered Afghan refugees are 2nd or 3rd generation born and raised in Pakistan.
Globally one in six of the refugees under UNHCR care were from Afghanistan (2.7 million people) where almost 1.2 million people were internally displaced.
Children constituted 51 per cent of the world’s refugees according to GTR – a tragic reflection of how global forced displacement is disproportionately affecting young lives. In Pakistan, children below the age of 18 constitute 50 per cent of the total refugee population.
Europe’s struggles to manage the more than one million refugees and migrants who arrived via the Mediterranean dominated the attentions of many in 2015, nonetheless the report shows that the vast majority of the world’s refugees were elsewhere. In all, 86 per cent of refugees being cared for by UNHCR in 2015 were in low and middle income countries like Pakistan.
Syria at 4.9 million, Afghanistan at 2.7 million and Somalia at 1.1 million together accounted for more than half the refugees under UNHCR care worldwide. While global displacement totals were higher than ever, the number of people able to return to their home or find another solution (local integration in a country of first refuge or resettlement elsewhere) was low.
This WRD, UNHCR also launched a global #WithRefugees petition to make it a key moment for everyone to show their support for families forced to flee. By signing the #WithRefugees petition, people from across the globe can call on governments to work together and do their fair share for refugees.
In Peshawar and Quetta WRD events, such as, cultural shows, sports events, TV and radio panel discussions and poetry were organized to commemorate the day.