Senior UN refugee agency official urges more support for displaced people

A senior official of the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has called for greater understanding of the refugee issue and continued support for displaced people.

UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Kelly Clements spoke to NHK in Tokyo on Wednesday.

The UN estimated last year that about 114 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes around the world, fleeing conflicts, persecution, natural disasters and other threats. The number has been on the rise.

Clements said those people have fewer opportunities to return home because of the absence of peace. She said the majority of refugees and displaced people "have been out of their homes for sometimes a generation, sometimes decades." She said long-term support is "critically important" for not only those who are forced to flee, but also the host communities accepting them.

She referred to the situation in the Middle East, which has seen a number of conflicts, such as the civil war in Syria and fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and other crises, such as the conflict in Sudan.

Clements said the agency is very concerned about the "ripple effect" from the Gaza conflict now seen in the Middle East. She said the region needs a lot of support and expressed hope for a ceasefire in the conflict.

She said, "These large, complex situations cannot be solved without an international community response." She added it is important that the response does not just involve governments, but includes citizens, society and businesses to try to find solutions.