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Filippo Grandi: Ranks of world's refugees swell as asylum space shrinks


According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, more than 2 million people fleeing wars or persecution have joined the ranks of the world’s refugees this year, but often face more restrictive asylum policies, including in Europe and the United States.

They include 650,000 from South Sudan and 500,000 Muslim Rohingya who have escaped violence in Myanmar for Bangladesh over the past five weeks, many of the latter stateless.

At the end of last year, 17.2 million refugees fell under UNHCR’s mandate, but some of them have returned and others have been resettled, and there is no updated total. An additional 5 million Palestinian refugees are cared for by UNRWA.

Grandi voiced concern that the refugee issue has been increasingly instrumentalized in local and national policies.

Border closures, measures to limit entry, restrictive asylum procedures, indefinite detention in appalling conditions had regrettably increased, he said.

“We have observed the protection environment deteriorate in many parts of the world, including in industrialized countries - in Europe, in the United States, in Australia,” Grandi said.

Nearly 1.2 million refugees need resettling globally to third countries, he said.

“It is therefore an issue of major concern that fewer than 100,000 resettlement places are expected to be available this year – a drop of 43 per cent from 2016,” he said.

Traditionally, the United States has taken the largest number of refugees deemed most vulnerable under UNHCR’s resettlement program involving about 10 Western receiving countries. Syrian and Congolese refugees led those resettled last year.

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