Displacement figures signal ‘complete failure’ to protect civilians
BEIRUT - Conflicts and violence worldwide displaced a record 38 million people in 2014, with 2.2 million Iraqis alone forced to flee the Islamic State group, a Norwegian humanitarian group report released Wednesday revealed.
The findings of the study carried out by the Norwegian Refugee Council's Internal Displacement Monitoring Center are endorsed by the United Nations refugee agency.
In a joint statement, they said 11 million were newly displaced last year — mostly because of conflicts in Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. That's the equivalent of 30,000 people each day.
"These are the worst figures for forced displacement in a generation, signaling our complete failure to protect innocent civilians" said Jan Egeland, secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council.
The 4.7 million increase compared to 2013 comes mostly from the Middle East and Africa.
Iraqi civilians were the most displaced in 2014, with at least 2.2 million people fleeing the Islamic State group starting in June last year. Intense fighting followed between the Sunni militants and Iraqi troops, Kurdish fighters and Shiite militiamen.
Syria has the highest number of internally displaced, with 7.6 million dislodged because of their country's civil war, now in its fifth year. That's 35 percent of the population. In 2014, at least 1.1 million Syrians were newly displaced. More than 220,000 people have been killed and 1 million wounded in the war.
Also, the militant group Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria drove hundreds of thousands away, or three quarters of at least 975,300 displaced there.
The report said that for the first time in more than a decade, Europe had massive enforced displacement caused by the war in Ukraine, where 646,500 people fled their homes last year.
Volker Türk, UNHCR's Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, said the longer conflicts lasts, the more the displaced are likely to become refugees.
"As we have seen in the recent past, for example in the Mediterranean, despair drives people to take their chances and even risk dangerous boat journeys," Türk said.