Refugee Crisis
June 26, 2018
Can people fleeing violence count on humane treatment?

Even as the latest report from the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees bemoans record levels of refugee flows worldwide, the number of refugees entering Europe and the United States is down from previous years due to greater restrictions on refugee admissions. In the first half of fiscal 2018, refugee admissions to the United States fell by 73 percent, and the number of migrants and refugees who reached Europe by sea during the first half of 2018 was down 55 percent from the first half of 2017. Following recent trends, more than half of all refugees are fleeing just three conflict-plagued countries: Syria, Afghanistan and South Sudan. But increasing numbers from Colombia and Venezuela also are seeking refuge in neighboring countries. And while fewer refugees are reaching Europe, the dangers they encounter en route have increased, as has the violence they face from citizens in some host countries.

A Syrian who fled conflict in his hometown of Deir Ezzor carries his child at a refugee camp in northeast Syria on Feb. 26, 2018. Nearly 13 million people have been driven from their homes since civil war erupted in the country in 2011. (AFP/Getty Images/Delil Souleiman)   A Syrian who fled conflict in his hometown of Deir Ezzor carries his child at a refugee camp in northeast Syria on Feb. 26, 2018. Nearly 13 million people have been driven from their homes since civil war erupted in the country in 2011. (AFP/Getty Images/Delil Souleiman)

Record numbers of refugees — about 65.6 million worldwide, according to the United Nations — are straining the resources and patience of host countries around the world. “The sheer scale and numbers have not only shown the imperfections of current responses, but have also presented the international community with a clear, global and common task: to address large movements of refugees and migrants,” wrote Volker Turk, assistant high commissioner for protection at the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in January. 1

Nowhere is the crisis greater than in Syria. Seven years after civil strife erupted there in 2011, nearly 13 million Syrians have been driven from their homes, according to estimates from the Pew Research Center in Washington. Roughly half of those Syrians are still in the county and more than 5 million have fled to neighboring countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa. Approximately 1 million are in Europe, while the United States hosts 33,000. 2

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