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UN: 70 Million Refugees Build Worldwide Pressure


FILE - Venezuelans illegally cross into Colombia, to Villa del Rosario, along a path known as a "trocha," Aug. 31, 2018.
United Nations 70 Million Refugees Build Worldwide Pressure
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The United Nations refugee agency says there are now more than 70 million people displaced in the world and the problem is growing.

The U.N. reports on refugees in its yearly publication, Global Trends. It provides a count of international refugees, asylum-seekers and people displaced within their own countries.

Thursday is World Refugee Day. U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi told reporters that the refugee situation is going in what he called “the wrong direction.” He said, “There are new conflicts, new situations, producing refugees, adding themselves to the old ones. The old ones never get resolved.”

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

The Italian diplomat spoke at a press conference called after release of the report named Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2018.

Grandi said displaced people need safety from war, conflict and persecution. He also warned that the “language around refugees and migrants is often divisive…” He said some countries are identifying refugees as threats to safety and jobs in host communities. But, he praised the acceptance of refugees by “…communities who are themselves hosting large numbers...”

This year’s report tells of people who struggle to cross rivers, deserts, fences and many barriers in an effort to escape repressive governments and violence.

Of the total, most are people displaced within their own country. The U.N. says 41 million people are internally displaced.

Many of the so-called “displacement situations” have lasted more than five years. The conflict in Syria, for example, has gone on for eight years with no apparent end, displacing 13 million people.

In South America, the crisis in Venezuela has driven an estimated four million people from the country. Many move fluidly across the borders with Brazil, Colombia and Peru. Venezuelans now make up the largest single group of asylum-seekers, 340,000 people, worldwide.

However, two-thirds of all refugees come from only five countries: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia.

Grandi said the huge migrations cause great pressure on countries. He said this can lead them to take measures that are harmful to refugees. “We are in a very dangerous situation,” he said.

The official noted that the “largest supporter of refugees” in the world is the U.S. which is the U.N. refugee agency’s biggest donor.

But he added that wealthy countries do not suffer the greatest difficulty linked to refugee crises. He said most refugees are in countries close to conflict areas. This means that poor and middle-income countries are hardest hit. “That is where we need to focus,” he said.

Grandi said refugees would like to go home, but live in a state of limbo for years because lasting answers to the problems they face get increasingly difficult.

I’m Mario Ritter Jr.

Mario Ritter Jr. adapted this AP story for VOA Learning English with additional material from VOA’s Lisa Shlien. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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Words in This Story

trend –n. the general direction of some situation or condition

persecution –n. to treat someone cruelly or unfairly

divisive –adj. causing division or disagreement

focus –n. the main purpose or interest

limbo –n. a place or position that is neither bad nor good; in some religions, between heaven and hell

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