Every year, millions of people are forced to leave their homes. Many important crises have contributed to the massive displacement of people over the past decade. From the outbreak of the Syrian conflict early in the decade, which continues today; the outflow of Venezuelans across Latin America and the Caribbean; the renewed outbreaks of fighting and violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to the renewed conflict and security concerns in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Somalia. Ongoing forced migration is an issue that we should all feel concerned about.
The reasons for forced migration differ from country to country, however, there are a few primary reasons why people might be forced to flee their homes.
Forced Migration is “a general term that refers to the movements of refugees and internally displaced people (those displaced by conflicts within their country of origin) as well as people displaced by natural or environmental disasters, chemical or nuclear disasters, famine, or development projects.”
What are the main reasons people flee their homes?
- War and conflict
Most refugees are people who have been displaced due to a direct or indirect result of a war or conflict.
Presently, the largest refugee population in the world is fleeing conflict in Syria. At the end of 2019, Syrians continued to be by far the largest forcibly displaced population internationally (13.2 million, including 6.6 million refugees and more than six million internally displaced people).
- Persecution and human right violations
One of the most common reasons people become refugees is persecution. These include race, social, religious, and political persecution. Regular gross violations of human rights also cause people to flee their homes.
3. Gender and sexual orientation
As of December 2019, 70 countries in the world criminalise same-sex relations, of whom 7 countries punish it with the death penalty. Gender and sexual-orientation-based violence is an increasing reason for people to seek refugee in other countries. In 2012, the UNHCR recognised the Increased need for protection and assistance to LGBTIQ+ displaced people
4. Climate change
UNHCR recognises climate change as the defining crisis of our time and disaster displacement one of its most devastating consequences. Entire populations are already suffering the impacts. In 2018 the UN General assembly directly addressed this growing concern. It recognizes that “climate, environmental degradation, and disasters increasingly interact with the drivers of refugee movements”.
“We need to invest now in preparedness to mitigate future protection needs and prevent further climate-caused displacement. Waiting for disaster to strike is not an option.”
Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees
5 . Hunger
In 2017, it was declared by the United Nations that we were facing the world’s largest humanitarian crisis since the end of the second world war with more than 20 million people in four countries facing starvation and famine.
Hunger is a persistent threat impacting the lives of large numbers of forcibly displaced people.
In 2019, a UN report revealed over 820 million people suffering from hunger; an ‘immense’ global challenge.
Hunger is increasing in many countries where economic growth is underdeveloped, like in middle-income countries and countries that rely heavily on international primary commodity trade.
6. Extreme Poverty
After the economy collapsed in Venezuela, over 4.5 million people fled to other countries as refugees. The deepening political, economic, and human rights crisis led to extreme poverty in the country. Venezuelans migrated to seek food, work, and a better life, most of them to nearby countries, unable to afford food in their home countries. Venezuela was once Latin America’s fastest-growing economy. As of today, it has more than 32 million people being unable to afford food.
It is crucial in today’s environment to understand and be aware of the reasons people might force to flee their homes in order to give them the assistance they need.
As of today, according to UNHCR Figures at Glance, there were 79.5 million forcibly displaced people worldwide at the end of 2019. Among them are 26 million refugees, 4,2 million asylum seekers, and 45,7 million internally displaced people.
European countries are strengthening their borders, making it difficult and dangerous for people fleeing their countries and people who are not safe in their home countries to come to Europe to seek safety and ask for asylum, clearly disregarding the reasons those people were forced to flee in the first place.
The EU is currently experimenting with digital measures to prevent forced migrants from crossing the borders, using sound canon to stop people from coming. EU members are increasing violent (most of the time illegal) tactics to push back people, refugee camps in Greece are being closed up. Clearly, the EU is sending a clear unfair message to people
fleeing conflict, persecution, human rights violations, extreme poverty, and climate change: stay away from Europe.
Let’s not forget, however, that some European countries are still silently complicit and actively encouraging sales of weapons to nearby conflict zones.