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Executive Summary for June 19th

We review the latest refugee-related issues, including the UNHCR’s annual survey showing that the world’s displaced population has reached a new high, a rally in Spain calling for more refugee resettlement and Human Rights Watch’s warning about the Libyan coast guard.

Published on June 19, 2017 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

World’s Displaced Population Hits New High; Pace of Growth Slows

The U.N. refugee agency said the number of people forcibly displaced from their homes hit a new record high in 2016, reaching 65.6 million.

According to UNHCR’s annual Global Trends report, that includes 22.5 million refugees, 40.3 million internally displaced, 2.8 million asylum seekers and at least 3.2 million people recorded as stateless (although UNHCR says the total stateless population is likely to closer to 10 million).

The world’s displaced population continues to grow – by 300,000 people compared to 2015 – but more slowly than the previous four years.

Some 10.3 million people were newly displaced last year, including 6.9 million who were displaced inside their own countries.

Yet the total number of people internally displaced dropped from 40.8 million to 40.3 million. Some 6.5 million internally displaced people returned to their hometowns last year.

Meanwhile, around half a million refugees returned to their home countries, while 189,300 people were resettled in 37 countries around the world.

“Although these figures represent small shifts compared to the previous year … the relatively stable figures mask a very unstable situation,” UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi told journalists in South Sudan. “This is becoming a forgotten crisis.”

While Syria has the largest displaced population at 12 million, South Sudan has the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis, with 3.3 million displaced at the end of 2016.

“They [South Sudan’s refugees] don’t arrive on the shores of Europe, or Australia or at the border between Mexico and the U.S. Those are the places where refugees become visible and their voices are heard,” Grandi said.

Thousands March in Madrid Calling for More Refugees in Spain

Several thousand people marched through Spain’s capital Madrid on June 17 to demand the government take in more refugees.

The protesters walked behind a banner reading: “We Want To Welcome Them Now! Enough Excuses, No More Barriers.”

In September 2015, Spain pledged to take in more than 17,000 refugees from Italy, Greece and Turkey within two years. Only 1,304 refugees have arrived.

Meanwhile, the number of refugees arriving in Spain by boat is growing, although still far smaller in number than Italy, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Spanish rescuers recovered the bodies of five people in a small boat off Spain’s southeastern coast on June 17. The same day, at least 92 people were rescued east of the Strait of Gibraltar.

Human Rights Watch: ‘Reckless Conduct’ by Libya Coast Guard

Human Rights Watch urged the E.U. not to cede control of rescue operations to Libyan forces, saying they were ill-equipped to safely rescue people at sea.

The coast guard picked up 906 people, including 98 women and 25 children, in several boats, some of them damaged or with no engine, off the Libyan city of Sabratha on June 16.

Human Rights Watch warned that Libyan forces at sea have engaged in “reckless conduct” during rescue operations in international waters, and warned against giving them a greater role in rescue operations in the Mediterranean.

The group said that coast guard boats disrupted rescue operations being carried out by NGO boats on May 10 and May 23.They also said there were credible witness reports that the Libyan coast guard mistakenly fired shots at an Italian coast guard boat on May 26; this incident was denied by the Italian coast guard.

The commander of one coast guard force in Zawiyah told Human Rights Watch that using force against migrants during rescue operations was “necessary to control the situation as you cannot communicate with them.”

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