War, violence and persecution drove 16.2 million people from their homes in 2017, bringing the total number of displaced persons in the world to 68.5 million, according to the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR.
‘Canada should be proud,’ says lawyer
Canada ranked ninth in terms the of number of asylum seekers it received and that number more than doubled from the year before to 47,800. The new arrivals included 7,300 from Haiti, 5,500 from Nigeria, 2,200 from Turkey and 2,100 from the U.S.
“Canada should really be proud of itself because we stepped up when we needed to and we resettled over 35,000 Syrian refugees,” says Petra Molnar, a lawyer and researcher with the International Human Rights Program at the University of Toronto.Listen
‘Backlash based on fear-mongering’
Molnar is dismayed by the treatment of asylum seekers in the United States and the growing backlash against migrants in several European countries. “I think a lot of this backlash is based on inaccurate and overblown fears around migration, and this kind of fear-mongering and xenophobia that we’re seeing across the world.”
While politicians like U.S. President Donald Trump evoke images of hordes of foreigners streaming across its borders, the fact is that only 33,400 refugees were settled in the U.S. last year and 85 per cent of all refugees are living in developing countries, and mostly in countries close to their own.
The UN report notes that many of the host countries are “desperately poor and receive little support to care for these populations.” The country hosting the most refugees is Turkey and Lebanon hosted the most relative to its population.
‘We can do better’
The increase in the number of displaced people is not likely to slow down. The UN high commissioner for refugees says there needs to be “a new and far more comprehensive approach” to the managing forced displacement, and Molnar agrees. “What’s necessary is a hard look at our policies and how we can ensure that people really have a fair shake at being able to claim asylum and present their case and get the protection that they deserve.
“It’s really incumbent on democratic countries like Canada to be a leader on this front and I definitely think that we can do better.”