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Refugees on the rise on the planet | Canada challenged to do more in 2023



(OTTAWA) The United Nations is bracing for a further increase in the number of refugees this year, as last month’s earthquake in Turkey and Syria adds to a series of crises that are causing the world to looks to Canada for more help.

“The needs around the world are enormous,” said Kelly Clements, the UN deputy commissioner for refugees, during a visit to Canada this week.

“This is the start of another very difficult year. »

Mme Clements was on tour in the Middle East last month when the earthquake hit, and headed to the major Syrian city of Aleppo immediately after.


United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Kelly T. Clements met with Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad in Damascus, Syria, on February 12.

She said the tremors woke United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) staff in the early hours of February 6. They went out into the street, finding themselves in the snow with only their night clothes.

“Some of our colleagues lost their homes or belongings and were worried about their loved ones. Despite that, everyone was back in the office that day,” she said.

“You can see inside apartment buildings, see personal effects, people’s clothes, mirrors on the wall, dressers, etc. “said Clements.

The Syrian civil war has been going on since 2011 and parts of Aleppo were already in ruins,” she said.


Syrian refugees living in Turkey greet each other before boarding a bus to cross the Bab al-Hawa border crossing in the north of the country on February 17 as they return to Syria following the deadly earthquake .

Many parts of Syria are under the control of warring groups, making the country’s response much slower than the mobilization of the Turkish government. It took a week for the Syrian government to ease its policy of severe border restrictions, which delayed the arrival of humanitarian aid.

UNHCR was, however, able to concentrate on establishing housing for the victims. Mme Clements said the agency needs funding to run programs for children separated from their families and to protect women from violence.

Our biggest concern is that when the spotlight is no longer on the earthquake response, even though the shaking is gone, the needs will still be there.

Kelly Clements, United Nations Deputy Commissioner for Refugees

“These are people who will need the long-term support of the international community to rebuild their lives. It’s not just about rebuilding structures,” said UNHCR Deputy Commissioner

Syria had 21 million citizens when the civil war broke out 12 years ago. Today, 6.8 million Syrians are displaced and 5 million are refugees in other countries.

On the other side of the border, in Lebanon, 1.5 million Syrians find themselves in this country where a fifth of the residents are refugees from other states, the highest proportion on the planet.

Kelly Clements, a former US diplomat in Beirut, remembers bringing her own medicine on a recent visit, due to the lack of supplies in the country.

Lebanon had been in a political stalemate for years when much of its main port blew up in 2020. Inflation made almost all refugees in the country poor, as well as many Lebanese citizens, says Mme Clements.

She notes that Lebanese are also fleeing their own country on makeshift boats and that the death toll at sea has tripled from 2021 to 2022.

Meanwhile, another conflict in Yemen has produced a humanitarian disaster, as a global appeal for aid hit just a third of its target this week.

The UN has asked for US$4.3 billion to restore adequate food, water and health services, but only received US$1.2 billion at a donors’ conference on Monday.

The country is beset by a violent civil war, an economic blockade and increasingly severe natural disasters. According to Save the Children, the lack of funding “will have a negative impact on the lives of millions of children in Yemen and on the long-term stability of the country”.


Displaced children at a school in Hodeidah province, Yemen, in September 2021

On Monday, Canada’s Minister for International Development, Harjit Sajjan, announced funding of CA46 million “as part of its ongoing response to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen”.

“It has largely fallen off the radar of the international community, and is still in dire need of humanitarian support,” Clements.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees counted 65 million displaced people worldwide in 2015, a figure that has exploded past 100 million and is expected to reach 120 million by the end of 2023, according to estimates. conservative.

Mme Clements commended Canada for being a major donor to UNHCR and for resettling some of the world’s most vulnerable refugees whose needs cannot be met in many developing countries.

However, she hopes that the Canadian contribution will increase in the next federal budget.

We need Canada to be with us even more in 2023 than in 2022.

Kelly Clements, United Nations Deputy Commissioner for Refugees

Meanwhile, closer to home, the rise in the number of asylum seekers entering Canada through Roxham Road is prompting Quebec to urge Ottawa to close this unofficial border crossing.

The federal government transported hundreds of asylum seekers to Ontario as Quebec media highlighted the lack of housing in Montreal for new arrivals.

Although Clements does not follow Canadian politics, she says she is confident the country will remain open to helping people in need.

“Canada has always been an incredibly generous country, welcoming refugees, asylum seekers and others with open arms,” she said.

“I am convinced that Canada can find ways to continue to welcome those in need of its international protection,” she concluded.

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