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World Has 68.5 Million Displaced People, U.N. Agency Says

A Syrian refugee hangs her laundry at an informal refugee camp. (Hassan Ammar / AP)

As of 2017, there were 68.5 million refugees fleeing persecution and war all over the world, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. It’s a record number for a community often met with disdain and discrimination by countries it hopes might offer shelter and safety.

The UNHCR number includes 25.4 million refugees, 40 million internally displaced people and 3.1 million asylum seekers. The number of refugees in 2017 was nearly 3 million higher than the figure for 2016, The Independent reports, and only 100,000 were resettled by the international community.

“What we are seeing in this data is overall displacement at an unprecedented high six years in a row,” Matthew Saltmarsh, a UNHCR spokesman, told The Guardian. “In terms of refugee numbers it is the largest increase in a single year.”

The numbers may be swelling, but they are not being met with a corresponding increase in resettlement help and other support. In fact, it’s often the opposite.

In the United States, the Trump administration’s family separation practices are receiving intense scrutiny amid reports of young children being taken from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border and forced into detention centers. According to The New York Times, nearly 2,000 children have been detained in a six-week period. In a White House briefing Monday, President Trump defended his policy, saying that undocumented migrants “could be murderers and thieves and so much else.”

The United States’ harsh immigration policies are not unusual in today’s world. As Bloomberg reports, disagreements over whether to accept refugees are threatening to overtake an upcoming European Union summit:

In the run-up to the June 28-29 summit that is supposed to be focusing on euro-area integration and Brexit, Spain is attacking Italy’s hardening stance on refugees while French President Emmanuel Macron is calling for a revamp of the EU’s system for sharing the burden of asylum seekers. Three years after droves of people fleeing wars and chaos in the Middle East and North Africa threatened to overwhelm the EU, the immigration crisis threatens to throw European politics into disarray once more.

The outlook for the 68.5 million displaced people remains bleak.

Hungary’s new ultra-right government is considering legislation that would make giving food to refugees illegal.

Last week, Italy refused to let a rescue ship with 600 refugees dock at any of its ports. As The Independent reported, it tried to divert them to Malta, which “brushed off the request [to dock], saying it had nothing to do with the rescue operation.”

Matteo Salvini, Italy’s new interior minister, is the leader of the Northern League, which bills itself as an anti-immigration party.

Ilana Novick
Blogger / Editorial Assistant

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