UN Refugee Agency urges family unity at southern U.S. border
Growing numbers of families in Central America have been forced in recent years to flee extraordinary, unchecked violence including murder, rape, abduction and…
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On Sunday, the Aquarius, a rescue ship with 629 undocumented immigrants, mostly Africans, disembarked in the port of Valencia, Spain, after the Spanish government decided to open its ports after the refugees spent a rough week on the sea, waiting for a European port to give permission to accept them. (Italy and France had previously said no.)
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), applauded Spain for its actions today in bringing to an end the sea-rescue crisis on the Mediterranean Sea after the nation offered the Aquarius its support. But the organization remarked that more advocating is needed to assure and predict regional disembarkation in situations of rescue at sea - and following disembarkation, for proper arrangements of shared responsibility to avoid situations in which countries are penalized by being left to manage processing and following up alone. European countries have criticized the lack of a united and coordinated European strategy to avoid this kind of situation.
But UNHCR not only had words for the European Union. In another statement this week, the agency has urged the United States to prioritize family unity and the best interests of children as it implements new border management policies along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“There are effective ways to ensure border control without putting families through the lasting psychological trauma of child-parent separation,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a statement.
“UNHCR stands ready to support the United States in implementing humane and secure alternatives,” Grandi added.
Growing numbers of families in Central America have been forced in recent years to flee extraordinary, unchecked violence including murder, rape, abduction and forced recruitment of children into gangs. These families have been seeking protection in countries throughout the region.
UNHCR continues to call on governments to work together to address the root causes in Central America and at the same time ensure safe haven for families fleeing life-threatening violence and persecution.
Undocumented immigrants are just a part of the problem; wars, violence, and persecution have driven worldwide forced displacements to a new high in 2017 for the fifth year in a row, led by the crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the war in South Sudan, and the flight of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees to Bangladesh from Myanmar. Overwhelmingly it is developing countries that are most affected, as reported by UNCHR in its annual Global Trends report, which was released on Monday.
UNHCR said 68.5 million people were displaced as of the end of 2017. Among them were 16.2 million people who became displaced during 2017 itself, either for the first time or repeatedly – indicating a huge number of people on the move and an equivalent to 44,500 people being displaced each day, or a person becoming displaced every two seconds.
Refugees who have fled their countries to escape conflict and persecution accounted for 25.4 million of the 68.5 million. This is 2.9 million more than in 2016, also the biggest increase UNHCR has seen in a single year. Asylum-seekers, who were still awaiting the outcome of their claims to refugee status as of December 31, 2017, meanwhile rose by around 300,000 to 3.1 million. People displaced inside their own country accounted for 40 million of the total, slightly fewer than the 40.3 million in 2016.