Disturbing scenes emanating from detention centers along the southern U.S. border have underscored the Trump administration’s indifference to the suffering of strangers, even young children seeking asylum. Unfortunately, the current administration in Washington is far from alone in scorning those seeking refuge in foreign lands. The world is in the midst of a global crisis of displacement, one that is testing both established humanitarian principles and the will of wealthy countries to ease the plight of those affected. This calamity shows no signs of abating. The world is utterly failing to assist and protect those most in need.
Late last month, the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, announced that its global caseload had topped 74.8 million people in 2018—up from 43 million just five years earlier. Some 41.4 million of these individuals are internally displaced persons, or IDPs, uprooted from homes but still within their country, while another 20.4 million are refugees, having crossed international borders. The remainder includes 3.9 million stateless persons lacking recognized nationality, 3.5 million registered asylum-seekers, and 2.9 million recently returned refugees and IDPs.
Unsurprisingly, violence is the single biggest driver of displacement. In Africa, refugees and IDPs have almost tripled over the past decade, thanks to chronic conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria and the Central African Republic. The Americas, meanwhile, face “a displacement situation of complexity and magnitude not seen in decades,” according to the U.N. More than 3 million people fled Venezuela in 2018. Most of them arrived in Colombia, which was already grappling with 7.8 million IDPs of its own. To the north, hundreds of thousands of Central Americans have sought asylum in the United States to escape rampant gang violence and abusive governments.