Aris Messinis Agence France-Presse The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has counted 65 million people displaced worldwide in 2015, a figure that has exploded beyond 100 million and is expected to reach 120 million by the end of 2023.
The United Nations is preparing for a further increase in the number of refugees this year, due to last month's earthquake in Turkey and Syria adding to a series of crises that have the world looking to Canada for more help.
“The needs around the world are enormous,” said Kelly Clements, United Nations Deputy Commissioner for Refugees, during a visit to Canada this week.
“This is the beginning of another very difficult year.
Ms. Clements was touring the Middle East last month when the earthquake struck, and she headed to the major Syrian city of Aleppo immediately after.
< p>She said the tremors woke United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) staff in the early hours of February 6. They went out into the street, ending up in the snow with only their night clothes on.
“Some of our colleagues lost their homes or belongings and were worried about their loved ones. Despite that, everyone was back in the office that day,” she said.
“You can see inside apartment buildings, see personal effects, people's clothes, mirrors on the wall, dressers, etc. Clements said.
The Syrian civil war has been going on since 2011, and parts of Aleppo were already in ruins, she pointed out.
Many parts of Syria are under the control of warring groups, making the country's response much slower than the mobilization of the Turkish government. It took a week for the Syrian government to ease its policy of tight border restrictions, which delayed the arrival of humanitarian aid.
UNHCR was, however, able to focus on establishing housing for the victims. Ms. Clements said the agency needs funding to run programs for children separated from their families and to protect women from violence.
“Our biggest concern is that when the spotlight doesn't will be more focused on the response to the earthquake, even if the tremors have disappeared, the needs will still be there. »
“These are people who will need the long-term support of the international community to rebuild their lives. It's not just about rebuilding structures,” said the UNHCR Deputy Commissioner.
Syria had 21 million citizens when the civil war broke out 12 years ago. Today, 6.8 million Syrians are displaced and 5 million are refugees in other countries.
Situation in Lebanon
Across the border, 1.5 million Syrians find themselves in Lebanon, where a fifth of residents are refugees from other states, the highest proportion on the planet.
Kelly Clements, a former US diplomat in Beirut, recalls bringing her own medicine on a recent visit, due to the lack of supplies in the country.
Lebanon had been in a political stalemate for years when much of its main port blew up in 2020. Inflation made almost all refugees in the country poor, as well as many Lebanese citizens, Clements says. /p>
She notes that Lebanese are also fleeing their own country on makeshift boats and that the death toll at sea has tripled from 2021 to 2022.
Meanwhile, another conflict , in Yemen, has produced a humanitarian disaster, as a global appeal for aid reached only a third of its target this week.
The UN requested US$4.3 billion to restore adequate food, water and health services, but only received US$1.2 billion at a donors' conference on Monday.
The country is beset by a violent civil war, an economic blockade and increasingly severe natural disasters. According to Save the Children, the lack of funding “will have a negative impact on the lives of millions of children in Yemen and on the long-term stability of the country”.
On Monday, Canada's Minister for International Development, Harjit Sajjan, announced $46 million in funding “as part of its ongoing response to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen”.
“[This country] is fallen largely off the radar of the international community and is still in dire need of humanitarian support,” said Clements.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees counted 65 million displaced people worldwide in 2015, a figure that has exploded past 100 million and is expected to reach 120 million by the end of 2023, according to estimates conservatives.
Ms. Clements commended Canada for being a major donor to UNHCR and for resettling some of the world's most vulnerable refugees whose needs cannot be met in many developing countries.
However, she hopes that the Canadian contribution will increase in the next federal budget.
“We need Canada to be with us even more in 2023 than in 2022.”
Meanwhile, closer to us, the increase in the number of asylum seekers entering Canada via Roxham Road has prompted Quebec to urge that Ottawa close this unofficial border crossing.
The federal government has transported hundreds asylum seekers in Ontario as Quebec media highlighted Montreal's lack of housing for newcomers.
While Ms. Clements does not follow Canadian policy, she says she is certain that the country will remain ready to help those in need.
“Canada has always been an incredibly generous country, welcoming refugees, asylum seekers and others with open arms,” said she said.
“I am confident that Canada can find ways to continue to welcome those in need of its international protection. national,” she concluded.