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UN report: Global refugee crisis has hit all-time high

The world refugee crisis appears to be getting worse according to a U.N. report that shows the number of forcibly displaced people to be nearly 60 million -- a 40 percent increase within the past three years alone. Somini Sengupta of the New York Times joins Hari Sreenivasan for more perspective on the refugee crisis.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    A new U.N. report reveals that the world's refugee crisis is getting worse. According to the report, the number of forcibly displaced people has grown to — quote — "59.5 million, a 40 percent increase within the span of just three years."

    That's the equivalent of the entire population of Italy either fleeing war zones, ethnic or political persecution.

    For some insight on the crisis, yesterday, I spoke with Somini Sengupta of The New York Times.

    I began by asking her to put the 60 million number in perspective.

  • SOMINI SENGUPTA:

    What that means is, of those 60 million, about 14 million of them were forced to flee in the last year.

    And the rest have just been stuck because the conflicts in their homelands have not subsided at all. And some of them are stuck for generations.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    So, we're not just talking about poverty or economic opportunity, people choosing to leave, but these are people who are forced to leave.

  • SOMINI SENGUPTA:

    Absolutely not. Yes, right.

    There's a big difference between who the United Nations calls refugees or displaced people. They are fleeing war or persecution. They are not people who are leaving home to find a better life abroad, like my parents did, like many Americans did. These are people being forced to flee.

    Sometimes, they think they're just going away for, you know, a few but.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Mm-hmm.

  • SOMINI SENGUPTA:

    But they remain stuck, often in a — in a refugee camp, where they lack proper food or water. Often, their children are not in school for years at a time.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    OK. And where are most of these — these kind of pathways happening? What are the — what are the countries that are creating most of the refugees? And then where do they land?

  • SOMINI SENGUPTA:

    Right.

    So, Syria remains for the last couple of years the largest single driver of this. So, there are 7.9 million Syrians who are displaced. Most of them are still inside Syria, but many of them have left. They're in the neighboring countries.

    Turkey is today the number one refugee-hosting countries. There are 1.6 million people, Syrians, in Turkey.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    It is a strain on Turkey and this …

  • SOMINI SENGUPTA:

    Absolutely, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and particularly for countries like Lebanon, which are politically still quite fragile. Jordan is very water-scarce, so having a lot of new people in your town, in your city creates a lot of pressures and a lot of tensions sometimes in those communities.

    And one of the revealing things in this report was that one in four displaced people, one in four refugees are actually in the poorest countries in the world. So, for example, Ethiopia, one of the poorest nations on earth, has something like 600,000 refugees.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    That doesn't have the infrastructure to support them in the first place.

  • SOMINI SENGUPTA:

    Not at all, you know?

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    So, you mentioned that the reactions have been different in different parts of the world. Europe is certainly tightening a lot more. We have seen the kind of — the boat people across the Mediterranean, and the tragedies week after week. We have been reporting so many of those ships that have been sunk or are sinking.

    But what is Europe struggling with, compared to when you say Turkey takes one much 1.6 million refugees now, right?

  • SOMINI SENGUPTA:

    That's right.

    So, European Union leaders this week, in fact, are meeting to figure out if they can resettle among their 28 member states 40,000 refugees — so, 40,000 refugees across 28 member states vs. 600,000 in Ethiopia alone.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    You mentioned long-term impacts of being stuck. Explain that.

  • SOMINI SENGUPTA:

    The long-term impact can be quite serious, especially for women and children.

    So, in some countries, children can be — can face a lot of restrictions in going to school. So, they can be uneducated for years. They may have come from a place like Syria with pretty high levels of literacy, but then find themselves unable to go to college anywhere, certainly unable to get a job, because refugees are not allowed to work in many of these countries.

    Women, if they're running away from home by themselves with their children, are especially vulnerable, sexual harassment, rape, all kinds of protection issues for women.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right.

    Somini Sengupta of The New York Times, thanks so much.

  • SOMINI SENGUPTA:

    Thank you.

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