People Smuggling of the most Vulnerable – the ‘record high’ 60 million displaced amid expanding global conflicts

Nearly 60 million people are displaced around the world because of conflict and persecution, with half of these displaced persons from just three countries – Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia. 

This is the largest number of displaced persons in history.

UNHCR has confirmed in a recent study that over half of these displaced persons are children. 

There were about 14 million people who fled in 2014 alone. 


According to data gathered by Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) over the course of 2014, the number of people forcibly displaced during the reporting year swelled to a staggering 59.5 million people compared to the 51.2 million from the previous year. 

The figures, collected by the UN agency for its latest Global Trends: World at War, suggest that one in every 122 humans is now either a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking asylum. If this were the population of a country, says UNHCR, it would be the world’s 24th largest.

Nearly half of Syria’s entire population have been displaced – that’s 11.6 million displaced persons from Syria alone. 3.9 million displaced Syrians have fled to neighboring Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.  

New fighting in northern Syria has seen 23,135 refugees fleeing across the border into Turkey’s Sanliurfa province, according to information received from the Turkish authorities. Some 70 per cent are women and children.

High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres chose to spend World Refugee Day last week meeting refugees in Turkey in recognition of its vital role as a host country.

As of latest available data, Turkey is hosting 1,772,535 registered Syrian refugees, more than any other in the world. About 259,000 refugees live in 23 camps set up and managed by the government. 

Asylum seekers are often highly vulnerable people, as they have fled conflict with almost nothing, are often persecuted, and often have to use all of the small resources they do have to survive. With no possessions, no property, nowhere to live, and needing to take care of dependents, this does not leave them with many options. 

The plethora of crises and conflicts, observes the UN study, has also provoked a dangerous and worsening trend in irregular migration as millions of refugees around the world are pushed into an uncomfortable and deadly dynamic with human traffickers and smugglers as they seek passage to safety.

Sea crossings from the Middle East and North Africa to Europe have surged with the most recent official figures showing that as of 8 June a total of 103,000 refugees and migrants had arrived in Europe.

The overall forced displacement numbers in Europe for the 2014 reporting period totalled an overwhelming 6.7 million.

Half way around the world, the refugee situation in Asia is equally tragic. 

In its report, UNHCR explains that Asia has long been one of the world’s major displacement producing regions and, in 2014, the numbers of internally displaced across the continent grew by 31 per cent to 9 million people.

The ongoing plight of the Rohingya from Myanmar’s Rakhine state and in the Kachin and Northern Shan regions has similarly produced a maritime refugee crisis.

4/Hundreds of refugees and migrants aboard a fishing boat are pictured moments before being rescued by the Italian Navy as part of their Mare Nostrum operation in June 2014. - The Italian Coastguard / Massimo Sestini

Last year, the number of people leaving Myanmar and Bangladesh by boat is estimated to have climbed to around 53,000. Some 920 migrants are known to have perished in the Bay of Bengal between September 2014 and March this year.

One of the trafficking operations of vulnerable Bangladeshi and Rohingya migrants trafficked across South East Asia that was recently exposed is evidence of the depth of the corruption that exists. 

The Malaysian police busted a human trafficking network, which involved smuggling in of Bangladeshi migrants and Rohingya migrants across Malaysian-Thai border.

A Malaysian police team from the Kuala Lumpur headquarters identified three businessmen as being the kingpins of the network after arresting more than 70 of their runners, closely monitoring the suspects, reported The Daily Star.

Kedah Police Chief Zamri Yahya said that there will be no cover up regardless of whether the suspected bosses of the ring were influential people.

The three suspects could face charges under the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act 2007, the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act 2001 and other preventive measure orders.

The High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres attributes the huge shortages of funding for the UNHCR, and wide gaps in the global regime for protecting victims of war, the high number people in need of compassion, aid and refuge being abandoned as contributing factors to the worsening problem of displacement. 

“For an age of unprecedented mass displacement, we need an unprecedented humanitarian response and a renewed global commitment to tolerance and protection for people fleeing conflict and persecution.” Guterres sated. 

In a detailed analysis exploring the range of conflicts that have given rise to the current mass diaspora of refugees, the UNHCR report notes that in the past five years, at least 15 conflicts have erupted or reignited.

“It is terrifying that on the one hand there is more and more impunity for those starting conflicts, and on the other there is seeming utter inability of the international community to work together to stop wars and build and preserve peace,” The High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres stated. 

The United Nations has urged the international community to continue to help shoulder the burden with the nations of first entry for these displaced persons, and other neighbouring countries.

This educational video by the UNHCR places the sobering facts with compelling images. 

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