UNHCR chief expresses concern about global refugee crisis

The head of the UN refugee agency has expressed strong concern about a continued increase in the number of forcibly displaced people, as anti-immigrant parties gain strength in Europe and the United States.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, spoke to NHK in Geneva ahead of Thursday's World Refugee Day.

According to his office, the number of people displaced around the world has been growing for 12 consecutive years, exceeding 120 million as of the end of April 2024. That's roughly equivalent to the population of Japan, the 12th most populous nation.

Grandi pointed out that this is happening because there's been an increase in the number of conflicts that displace people around the world. He said there is a new conflict every few months, even as the old ones in places like Afghanistan and Syria do not seem to go away.

Grandi said that in order to solve conflict, cooperation is needed between states, and that's very difficult in a very fragmented world. He said the nature of some of the recent crises, in Ukraine and Gaza in particular, has further deepened the divisions between big powers, small powers, and other states.

Grandi also expressed concern about the recent rise in the popularity of right-wing or ultra-right politicians in Europe and the United States. He said there are politicians in those countries who have manipulated the issue of refugees and migrants for simply getting votes.

He said it would be very easy to tell voters: "Refugees and migrants are dangerous; they are a threat. We have no more space. We have to push them back." He said this will not solve the problem. He said people will continue to come because the forces that drive them out of their own countries are so strong, and there is no solution in what these politicians are proposing.

Grandi also pointed out that 75 percent of the approximately 120 million displaced people are in poor countries, not in rich ones. He said much more assistance should go to these poor countries that are hosting and will host the refugees.

Grandi said that helping refugees and displaced people involves providing them with humanitarian assistance, but it is important to look further beyond that short-term phase to ensure they receive longer-term support. He said he wants to encourage Japan to continue to be a champion of this approach.