The U.N. refugee agency says persecution and conflict in places like Syria and Afghanistan raised the total number of refugees and internally displaced people worldwide to a record 65.3 million at the end of last year. The previous year, 2014, had already seen the highest number of refugees worldwide since World War II, with 60 million displaced people. But last year — when Europe staggered under the arrival of large numbers of migrants — topped that record by nearly 10 percent, the UNHCR said on Monday in unveiling its annual Global Trends Report.
The refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean and arriving on the shores of Europe, the message that they have carried is that if you don’t solve problems, problems will come to you.
Another 21.3 million were refugees and some 3.2 million more were seeking asylum. More than a million people fled to Europe last year, causing a political crisis in the EU. U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi called on countries to work to fight the xenophobia that has accompanied the rise in refugee populations, and decried both physical barriers — like fences erected by some European countries — as well as legislative ones that limit access to richer, more peaceful EU states. Such European policies were spreading a negative example around the world, he said. “There is no plan B for Europe in the long run,” Grandi said.
The rise of xenophobia is unfortunately becoming a very defining feature of the environment in which we work.