Launch video by Iason Athanasiadis
An estimated 59.5 million people were displaced worldwide at the end of 2014, surpassing the refugees of World War II. It is a statistic that has made headlines across the world.
The summer months of 2015 brought influxes of asylum seekers to European shores that made the “Arab Spring” migration of 2011 appear modest. 2016 looks poised to break all records, with more than 100,000 people entering Europe over the first two months. At least 21 times more people entered Greece this January than in the same period last year.
The statistics are staggering. The images of those arriving echo desperation. Yet, the international community’s response has been underwhelming.
The reasons for this accelerating global displacement are many, mixed and intrinsically linked – from conflict and climate change to state-induced economic deprivation and statelessness.
With Syria entering a sixth year of conflict today, its civilians constitute the largest refugee population after Palestinians. But this is not to say that the Afghans who preceded Syrians as the largest displaced group are in a better place. Afghanistan, now deemed a “post-conflict” country by the same nations that have waged brutal wars on its soil, offers little safety to those who fled persecution.
Millions more do not qualify as refugees under U.N. conventions, yet they are fleeing bleak futures and desperate lives.
Illegal, irregular or clandestine, migrant, refugee or asylum seeker – without confining the term “refugee” to narrow margins, Refugees Deeply will present the conditions that are causing tens of millions of people across the globe to cross borders by land and water and driving others to leave their homes and become displaced inside their countries.
From Asia Pacific to Central America to the camps of Kenya to the borders of Hungary – we will explore the distinct but related contexts of displacement.
The media’s current migration narrative, which is dominated by the Mediterranean crossings, implies that a majority of refugees across the world are constantly on the move. In fact, they are not. Most are stuck, trapped by warehousing policies that restrict their movement and prevent them from making a living.
While some are in camps, many move to urban centers. Close to 60 percent of refugees live in cities, according to the Overseas Development Institute. Istanbul alone is currently home to at least 400,000 Syrian refugees.
The world is in urgent need of coherent principles and practices to aid and address the displaced. Conventions that were created to cope with massive displacement in the aftermath of World War II are proving woefully inadequate in addressing today’s more diverse migration. Governments are struggling to formulate effective foreign or domestic polices and this, coupled with proliferating smuggling networks, has created a powder keg.
There have been signs of hope. The impressive multitudes of volunteers on the shores of the Aegean that await arrivals of refugees from the Middle East, Africa and Asia are proof of changing public opinion toward refugees. But over the harsh winter months, while the tides have been turning against those making treacherous voyages – from the Mediterranean Sea to the Bay of Bengal – states are still focused on deterring new arrivals.
Migration and displacement are issues that define our time, but refugees are not solely a humanitarian issue. They are a development issue. They are an identity issue. They are an environmental issue. They are an innovation issue.
Refugees Deeply will systemically present the topic through the drivers, actors and events shaping this new era of migration, through a mix of original reporting, analysis and views from journalists, experts and practitioners. We will also strive to provide a platform for those experiencing displacement to tell their own stories in their own words.
We invite you to join us in widening the lens on this issue of critical global importance.