"We know too well the cost of inaction: a world with the highest forced displacement in recorded history," the U.N.'s top refugee official noted. "We cannot let this continue."
As the worldwide number of refugees soars to an all-time high due in large part to war, advocates marked World Refugee Day on Tuesday by imploring the international community to work toward achieving peace and provide the financial and other resources necessary to enable tens of millions of displaced people to return home.
More than 108 million people around the world were displaced as of the end of 2022—and over 35 million of those people were refugees—due to war and other violence, climate shocks, persecution, and other human rights violations, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) said in its annual Global Trendsreport released last week.
That's a 23% increase—or 8 million more people—from 2021, and the figure is expected to surge even higher due largely to Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the battle between rival factions of Sudan's military government, the agency warned.
"Right now, the world is facing a refugee crisis unlike any since World War II."
"On World Refugee Day, we honor the courage and hopes of the millions of people forced to flee war, violence, and persecution," U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a statement on Tuesday. "This year I'm marking the occasion in Kenya, meeting refugees brimming with strength and ambition despite escaping conflict, drought, and other horrors."
Grandi asserted that the world "can—and must—do more" to offer "hope, opportunities, and solutions to refugees, wherever they are and whatever the context."
\u201c110 million people have been #ForcedToFlee due to persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations, disasters & more.\n\nOn Tuesday's #WorldRefugeeDay, UNHCR has 5 ways you can stand #WithRefugees. https://t.co/beqF6jVscf via @Refugees\u201d— United Nations (@United Nations) 1687233780
According to UNHCR, more than three-quarters of global refugees are hosted by low- and middle-income countries, with Turkey, Iran, and Colombia hosting the most displaced people. The agency also said that roughly 7 in 10 refugees live in nations bordering their countries of origin.
Noting efforts by countries that "have generously hosted refugees," Grandi asserted that "host countries cannot do it on their own."
"The international community must step up and provide the financial resources to enable such progressive policies," he stressed. "We have seen enormous progress in this area over the past years... but clearly, more must be done."
\u201cBREAKING: the police tried to stop our banner drop.\n\nThis World Refugee Day, we couldn\u2019t let them silence us: REFUGEES WELCOME, ALWAYS\n\n\ud83d\udccdParliament, London\u201d— Freedom from Torture\ud83e\udde1 (@Freedom from Torture\ud83e\udde1) 1687276971
"Unfortunately, in today's divided world, long-term solutions for people forced to flee remain pitifully scarce, leaving many of the world's 35 million refugees in limbo," Grandi continued. "That is why, on World Refugee Day, I [call on] leaders to live up to their responsibility to broker peace so that violence stops, and refugees can return home safely and voluntarily."
"I call on governments to increase resettlement opportunities for refugees desperately in need," he added. "And I call on states to embrace policies that harness the enormous potential refugees have to contribute to the social, economic, and political life of the countries hosting them."
\u201cToday we mark #WorldRefugeeDay. This year's theme is "hope away from home." Palestinians are among the largest refugee populations in the world. For over 75 years, apartheid Israel has denied our refugees their @UN-stipulated right to return home and receive reparations.\u201d— BDS movement (@BDS movement) 1687264681
"We know too well the cost of inaction: a world with the highest forced displacement in recorded history," Grandi said. "We cannot let this continue."
This year's World Refugee Day comes amid fears that most of the more than 700 refugees aboard an overloaded fishing boat that sank off the southern Greek coast last week drowned. So far, 81 bodies have been recovered and 104 asylum-seekers have been rescued from the shipwreck.
\u201c\ud83d\udd34Open letter:\u00a0Together with @TimaKurdi, more than 180 international initiatives demand a full investigation of the shipwreck off Greece and an end to systematic border violence.\n#Pylos \n#WorldRefugeeDay\n\nhttps://t.co/hKPrBlaRh1\u201d— Sea-Watch International (@Sea-Watch International) 1687241479
Former U.K. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn tweeted: "It is a political choice to let human beings drown at sea. On World Refugee Day, we demand justice."
In the United States, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.)—a childhood refugee from Somalia—noted that "right now, the world is facing a refugee crisis unlike any since World War II, with refugee crises in Syria, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Venezuela, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Myanmar," and other countries.
"The climate crisis is only expected to fuel more forced migration from the most-impacted regions," Omar wrote on Twitter. "It is on all of us to live up to our professed values."
\u201cI and millions of others would not be where we are today if it weren\u2019t for the United States of America\u2014a country that stands as a beacon of hope for the poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free around the world.\u201d— Ilhan Omar (@Ilhan Omar) 1687276846
"We must provide safe refuge to those seeking asylum and reject nativist efforts to punish and criminalize asylum seekers," Omar added. "And we must pursue a binding agreement on global migration to hold each other accountable for addressing this crisis."