Turkey is the country that has hosted the largest number of refugees for five consecutive years, including more Syrian refugees than any other country, a U.N. Refugee Agency official said on Monday.
“Unfortunately, clashes are not ending in the time period we are living in,” Selin Ünal, spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Turkey, told Anadolu Agency.
“This year, unfortunately, we saw numbers rising compared to last year,” Ünal said, referring to the UNHCR’s Global Trends Report released last week.
According to the report, the number of forcibly displaced people “as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, or human rights violations” climbed 2.3 million in 2018 to reach 70.8 million worldwide.
Ünal said Turkey has undertaken a very tough responsibility to take in and care for refugees who are trying to hold onto life, rebuild their lives, and look to the future.
“Turkey is the country which has been hosting the highest number of refugees in the world for five consecutive years,” she stressed.
“In this context, Turkey is appreciated not just by us, but by the international community,” said Ünal, adding that cooperation between Ankara and the UNHCR continues.
Turkey has said while it appreciates the praise, the world community — especially the EU — has failed to do its part to help share the refugee burden.
Displaced people, said Ünal, are not fundamentally different from other individuals, but they have undergone “extraordinary experiences.”
She told how last Thursday organizers in Istanbul brought together Turkish and refugee musicians for World Refugee Day in an event meant to unify people through music by casting aside differences of language and national origin.
Saying refugees are often mistaken for economic migrants, Ünal explained that they do not flee their countries for economic opportunities but to save their lives.
“They need opportunities just like anybody else. In Turkey, they are given these opportunities,” she said.
Refugees by the numbers
“An estimated 13.6 million people were newly displaced due to conflict or persecution in 2018. This included 10.8 million individuals displaced within the borders of their own country and 2.8 million new refugees and new asylum seekers,” said the Global Trends Report.
It added that every day in 2018, an average of some 37,000 people were forced to flee their homes. Nearly four out of five refugees ended up in neighboring countries, it said.
“By the end of 2018, about 3.5 million people were awaiting a decision on their application for asylum,” read the report.
“For the fifth consecutive year, Turkey hosted the largest number of refugees worldwide, with 3.7 million people” — most of them refugees from the Syrian civil war — followed by Pakistan, Uganda, Sudan, and Germany, it noted.
Some 67% of all refugees worldwide came from just five countries: Syria (6.7 million), Afghanistan (2.7 million), South Sudan (2.3 million), Myanmar (1.1 million, largely Muslim Rohingya refugees), and Somalia (900,000).
“Children below 18 years of age constituted about half of the refugee population in 2018, up from 41% in 2009 but similar to the previous few years,” it added.