Over 72 million people, more than one in every hundred of the world's citizens, are now forcibly displaced, says a new report released today by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
According to the 2012 World Disasters Report, growing numbers of people are forced into migration by a range of what it calls "increasingly complex ‘drivers'" including conflict and violence, disasters, political upheaval and even by large-scale development projects. Of these, an estimated 20 million are living in a state of prolonged displacement.
The Report notes that the growing resistance of politicians and their citizens to supporting people who have been forced to flee their homes is perhaps the main impediment to providing better humanitarian and longer-term support to these highly vulnerable populations:
"(Many) states have effectively decided that the misery of excluded forced migrants is an unfortunate price worth paying to avoid having to confront the difficult political questions," it says, going on to argue that:
"(There) is no shortage of innovative approaches that could help to alleviate the trauma of extended exile ... The difficulty lies not in the new ideas, but in escaping the old ones."
Bekele Geleta, Secretary General of the IFRC, says the Report provides "practical backing" for the Red Cross Red Crescent's ongoing call for governments to ensure that migrants, irrespective of their legal status, have access to the support that they need and that they are treated at all times with respect and dignity.
"Last November, at our International Conference, 164 governments agreed to this principle and indeed they passed a resolution to this affect. That was an important step, but it was just a step," said Geleta.
"Governments need to adopt new policies and strategies that recognize the rights of migrants and that help them become productive members of communities, and not social pariahs."
The Report highlights a number of approaches and policies that governments could adopt to minimize the suffering of the world's forced migrants, including more flexible forms of citizenship, ensuring that they have the support that they need to find work and are integrated into their new communities, more relaxed approaches to cross-border mobility and better protection against crime and violence.
The World Disasters Report is in its 20th issue and over the past two decades has covered topics such as ethics in aid, neglected crises, public health, HIV and AIDS and urban risk.
2011 disaster data: Fewer disasters but more costly
The Report also features its annual summary of disaster information. 2011 was the most expensive of the past decade in terms of disaster costs, but it also featured the fewest disasters across the same period.
In all, 336 disaster events cost countries 365.5 billion US dollars. More than half of these costs were registered in Japan where the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami caused 210 billion US dollars in damages.