Red Cross 2012 Disaster Report
The Red Cross released their annual World Disasters Report, and this year the focus is on forced migration. Their statistics estimate that approximately 1 in 100 people in the world has been forced to leave their home – that’s roughly 72.7 million people. Reasons for their forced departure include conflict, disaster, poverty, and persecution.
Forced migration is occurring on a global scale, and the concern of the Red Cross is that there is not a dedicated UN agency that is mandated to coordinate assistance for for forced migrants – only refugees. While the distinction between the two may not be obvious, there is a difference. In 1951 the UN classified refugees as a “person residing outside his or her country of nationality, who is unable or unwilling to return because of a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a political social group, or political opinion.” It wasn’t until 1992, however, that a distinction was made, and forced migrants received their own definition. A forced migrant is “persons who have been forced to flee their homes suddenly or unexpectedly in large numbers, as a result of armed conflict, internal strife, systematic violations of human rights or natural or man-made disasters,and who are within the territory of their own country”.
While there is some overlap in the definitions, the Red Cross report considers the main difference to be in the unexpected nature of the migration, combined with the number of people involved. With forced migration, there can be thousands of people fleeing their homes at the same time – like, for example, in 2010 when an earthquake in Haiti saw nearly one million people become financially dependent on an already-burdened state.
The main dangers facing these forced migrants, according to the report, are human trafficking and a loss of human rights. A lack of funds and preparedness, says the Red Cross, can lead to migrants living in squalid conditions with a lack of health care, and a lack of basic needs, such as food and water.
The concern of the Red Cross is that much of this migration is going undetected. In their estimation, full media coverage of migrations, like in Syria, is rare, and instead occurs in small numbers, with people migrating to ill-equipped cities; and they are hoping that this report will draw attention to this growing issue.
To find out more, visit their website.
Here is the link for donations to the Swiss Red Cross for urgent aid to Syria;