© 2024 WUKY
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

More People Living As Refugees Now Than Anytime Since WWII, New U.N. Reports Says


The U.N. says 65 million people have left their homes and are living either as refugees or as displaced people in their own countries. Sixty-five million - that's the highest number of refugees since World War II. NPR's Jason Beaubien has been covering this story, and he is with us now. Hey, Jason.


MCEVERS: Who are these 65 million people, and what's making them leave home?

BEAUBIEN: You know, it really just comes down to conflict. When you look at the bulk of the people who are refugees and being displaced, it's the wars. It's - once again, Syria seems to have been dying down a little bit. But when you look at it, Syria continues to be the largest source of new refugees in 2016. Nearly a million Syrians fled out of the country last year in 2016. The official number was 824,000.

You know, but even before this, Turkey had already been hosting 2 and a half million Syrian refugees. South Sudan has become the fastest-growing refugee problem. Again, from them, almost a million people fled out of South Sudan in 2016. Afghanistan, Yemen, Central African Republic - all of these conflicts - these are the things that are, you know, prompting people to try to get a boat across the Mediterranean or try to just flee out of the Middle East however they can.

MCEVERS: And at the same time that we are seeing such high numbers of refugees, we're also seeing countries trying to limit the flow. The Trump administration has tried to do that. We see European countries trying to crack down.


MCEVERS: So are countries admitting fewer refugees?

BEAUBIEN: This is definitely part of the problem. And even today at the U.N., Secretary-General Antonio Guterres complained at a press conference in New York about this exact same thing.


ANTONIO GUTERRES: We are seeing more and more borders being closed. We are seeing more and more refugees being rejected.

BEAUBIEN: And he went on to say that it's the rich countries where most of this resistance to refugees is coming from. The reality is that the vast majority of the world's refugees in 2016 and right now today - they're ending up in low- and middle-income countries. And usually they're ending up in the country that just happens to be next door.

Uganda, for example, has now got the largest refugee camp in the world. It's called the Bidi Bidi camp. It's full of South Sudanese who fled out. It really is - it's Turkey. It's Pakistan. It's Lebanon. It's Uganda. It's these kind of countries that are really feeling the burden of this crisis.

MCEVERS: Obviously the solutions that are in place right now are not working. I mean what does the U.N. or other humanitarian organizations say about this? What do they want to see happen?

BEAUBIEN: Again, the U.N. secretary-general again today - you know, he was urging countries to accept more refugees. And he was saying that this is not just about being nice or being generous. He was pointing out that it's actually a matter of international law, that there are laws in place that people who have fled their country who are stateless are guaranteed protection under international law. And so he's asking people to step up and accept that. But ultimately the solution really is to deal with the conflicts, to deal with these things that are prompting people to be pushed out in the first place.

MCEVERS: That's NPR's Jason Beaubien. Thanks a lot.

BEAUBIEN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jason Beaubien is NPR's Global Health and Development Correspondent on the Science Desk.