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Global Forcible Displacement at Unprecedented High

A new report has found that more people than ever before have become refugees or are internally displaced worldwide because of war, violence, and persecution.  

The U.N. refugee agency’s “Global Trends Report,” released on the eve of World Refugee Day, June 20, shows an unprecedented 65.6 million people were determined forcibly displaced at the end of 2016, an increase of 300,000 over the previous year.

Nearly two-thirds of this total are people who have been forcibly displaced within their own country.  Refugee numbers worldwide have reached 22.5 million, which the report notes “is the highest ever seen.”

The UNHCR reports that one in every 113 people worldwide is either a refugee or is forcibly displaced within his or her own country.  Of the 65.6 million people that were found displaced last year, the report notes that 10.3 million were newly displaced, which equates to one person becoming uprooted every three seconds.

While people continued to flee in record numbers, the report found that last year around one half million refugees returned home and about 6.5 million internally displaced people went back to their places of origin although “many did so in less than ideal circumstances and facing uncertain prospects.”

Filippo Grandi, High Commissioner for Refugees said, “It is an extremely moveable situation, an extremely dynamic situation, which reflects in turn conflicts that continue to affect mostly and primarily and very violently civilians.”

Syria tops list

Data show that the Syrian conflict has generated the largest numbers of displaced people worldwide, with 12 million people, or nearly two-thirds of the population, either internally displaced or living as refugees, mainly in five neighboring countries — Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt.

“Turkey continues to be for the third consecutive year, the largest hosting country,” said Grandi.  “But, Lebanon, another one of the neighboring countries, is the country that has the highest per capita ratio compared to the local population in terms of the number of refugees.”

The report notes Afghanistan and Iraq have the second and third largest numbers of forcibly displaced people and that South Sudan has the world’s fastest growing refugee and displacement crisis.  

“The report, which records statistics at the end of 2016 indicates [that] 1.4 million refugees from South Sudan [are] in neighboring countries and almost two million internally displaced people,” said Grandi.  “Those figures are probably higher.  We certainly have counted at least half a million more in the first semester of this year in terms of refugees.”  

He added that most of the South Sudanese have sought refuge in neighboring Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic.

The report notes that most refugees — 84 percent — are in developing countries, half of them children.  While the world’s poorest nations shoulder the greatest burden of the global refugee crisis, the report found that most of the 2.8 million asylum claims made in 2016 were lodged in rich countries.  

The UNHCR said the largest recipient of new asylum applications was Germany with more than 722,400 registered last year.  The United States came in second with 262,000 newly filed applications.

The report called the large number of unaccompanied children asking for asylum a growing and unsettling development.

“Tragically, 75,000 asylum claims were received from children travelling alone or separated from their parent.”  The UNHCR report added that even this number probably “underestimated the true figure.”

Declining aid contributions

High Commissioner Grandi said that one of his greatest concerns was the declining contributions of the international community to meet the needs of this burgeoning refugee and displacement crisis.

For example, he said only 23 percent of the U.N.’s $8 billion appeal for the Syrian crisis has been received.  “This is very low for mid-year.”

He told VOA “I only hope this is a matter of pledges delayed by different factors and not because the Syrians are forgotten.”

He noted that the United States was the largest donor to refugee programs and that Washington had contributed $1.5 billion to UNHCR last year.

“I think this year the budget will be fundamentally stable.  There is uncertainty regarding the budget of next year,” he said.  “It is not just in respect to refugee aid, but it is in general regarding foreign aid.”

He said that the UNHCR had added its voice to many others, including the U.S. establishment “to say that foreign aid is an important tool of international stability, of positive influence, and it is a humanitarian tool that saves lives.”

“So, for all these reasons,” he added, “we hope that the levels of U.S. aid globally, including refugee aid, will be considered at the appropriate levels.”

The Trump administration has proposed cutting the $30 billion foreign-aid budget by 31 percent next year.  Although this amount is less than one percent of the U.S. $3.8 trillion Federal Budget, polls show Americans believe foreign aid takes up a much larger share.

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Learning Chinese Trending in Pakistan Amid Deepening Ties With China

China is investing billions of dollars in extensive roads, railways, special industrial zones and energy infrastructure in Pakistan. The massive collaboration dubbed the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, or CPEC, is generating interest among Pakistani students and professionals to learn Mandarin. Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.

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6 Soldiers Killed in Bomb Blast in Southern Thailand

A roadside bomb blast in Thailand has killed six soldiers and wounded four more in the insurgency-plagued south.

Police say the bomb was planted on a dirt road in Pattani province and exploded Monday as the soldiers were on a routine patrol.

The Muslim-majority border region has been racked by violence for over a decade as ethnic Malay insurgents battle the government of Buddhist-majority Thailand for more autonomy.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the blast.

 

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Indonesian Police: 4 Foreign Inmates Escape From Bali Prison

Four foreign inmates escaped early Monday from a prison on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, police said.

Prison officers became aware of the escape while conducting a morning check of inmates at the Kerobokan penitentiary in Bali’s capital, Denpasar, said Putu Ika Prabawa, an officer at Bali’s Kuta Utara police station.

Prabawa said the four men were believed to have escaped through a 50-by-70-centimeter (20-by-28-inch) hole found in a wall that connects to a 15-meter-long (49-foot-long) water tunnel heading toward a main street.

He identified the four as Shaun Edward Davidson, 33, of Australia; Dimitar Nikolov Iliev, 43, of Bulgaria; Sayed Mohammed Said, 31, of India; and Tee Koko King bin Tee Kim Sai, 50, of Malaysia.

Davidson is serving a one-year sentence for an immigration offense, while Iliev is serving a seven-year sentence for money laundering and another offense. Said and King are serving 14 and seven years, respectively, for drug offenses.

Prabawa said police have distributed pictures of the escaped inmates to police stations across Bali.

Jailbreaks are common in Indonesia, where overcrowding has become a problem in prisons that are struggling to cope with poor funding and an influx of people arrested in a war on drugs. Most prisoners have been convicted on drug charges.

Last week, dozens of inmates escaped from an overcrowded prison in western Indonesia after floods caused a wall to collapse.

Last month, more than 440 prisoners escaped from an overcrowded prison on Sumatra island when they were let out of their cells to take part in Friday Muslim prayers. In July 2013, about 240 prisoners, including several convicted terrorists, escaped during a deadly riot at a prison in Medan, the capital of North Sumatra province.

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Xinhua: China, Russia Held Navy Drill on Sunday

A Chinese naval fleet held a scheduled military exercise with the Russian navy in St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad on Sunday in the first of planned exercises this year to strengthen their cooperation, state news agency Xinhua reported.

The “Joint Sea-2017” exercise follows similar ones held last year, and more exercises will be held in late July in the Baltic Sea, and in mid-September in the Sea of Japan and the Sea of Okhotsk, it added.

The Chinese fleet, which sailed out from Hainan province in southern China, consisted of the missile destroyer Changsha, missile frigate Yuncheng, a comprehensive supply ship, ship-borne helicopters and marines, it said.

China and Russia are veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council, and have held similar views on many major issues such as the crisis in Syria, often putting them at odds with the United States and Western Europe.

They have previously held naval drills in the fiercely-contested South China Sea which China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have rival claims over.

Xinhua said the theme of this year’s drills was “joint rescue and protection of maritime economic activities”.

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North Korea: US Officials Seized Diplomatic Package at JFK

North Korea claimed Sunday that U.S. officials forcibly seized a diplomatic package from one of their delegations at John F. Kennedy Airport, calling it an “illegal and heinous act of provocation.”

 

The official Korean Central News Agency said officials were returning from a U.N. conference on rights of persons with disabilities Friday when they were “literally mugged.”  

 

“At the airport, a group of more than 20 including those who claimed to be from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the police officers made a violent assault like gangsters to take away the diplomatic package from the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) diplomats who were in possession of a valid diplomatic courier certificate,” a spokesman for North Korea’s Foreign Ministry told the news agency.

 

“As the diplomats vigorously resisted, they grabbed the diplomatic package using physical violence and made off,” the North Korean spokesman said.

 

U.S. Department of Homeland Security spokesman David Lapan said Sunday its officers did seize multiple media items and packages from three North Koreans who, according to the U.S. State Department, were not accredited members of North Korea’s Mission to the U.N. and had no diplomatic immunity.

 

“The package in question had no diplomatic protection from inspection,” said Lapan, adding that North Koreans attempted to physically retrieve the items but were prevented from doing so by DHS officers.

 

“The reported aggression was initiated by the North Koreans,” Lapan said. “The individuals were released without further incident but subsequently refused to board their departing flight without the items that had been seized.”

 

It wasn’t immediately clear why the items were taken. The U.S. Department of State said it was looking into the situation but offered no immediate comment.

 

The incident comes days after 22-year-old American college student Otto Warmbier was returned to his home state of Ohio in a coma with severe brain damage after being imprisoned in North Korea for 17 months.

 

North Korea claims the coma resulted from botulism and a sleeping pill, but U.S. doctors said they found no evidence of active botulism, a rare, serious illness caused by contaminated food or a dirty wound.

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Іран запустив ракети по території Сирії

Іран запустив 18 червня ракети по східній частині Сирії. В оприлюдненій після цього заяві Корпусу вартових ісламської революції йдеться, що запуск ракет середньої дальності класу «земля – земля» відбувся із західної частини Ірану по району сирійського міста Дейр-аз-Зор.

Метою атаки, як указано в заяві, була «штаб-квартира і мобілізаційні центри терористів, які підтримують (напади із застосуванням автівок – ред.) і створюють автомобільні бомби». У Корпусівартових ісламської революції твердять, що їм вдалося знищити «велику кількість терористів».

Ракетні атаки сталися через тиждень після того, як бойовики напали на іранський парламент і мавзолей аятоли Руголли Хомейні, засновника Ісламської республіки. Відповідальність за той напад взяло на себе угруповання «Ісламська держава». Корпус вартових ісламської революції додав у заяві, що «пролиття безневинної крові не залишиться без відповіді».

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Адвокат президента США: Трамп не є фігурантом «російського» розслідування

Президент США Дональд Трамп не є фігурантом розслідування імовірного втручання Росії в президентські вибори у США в 2016 році. Про це в інтерв’ю телеканалу NBC заявив адвокат Трампа Джей Секулоу.

Раніше Трамп стверджував у мережі Twitter, що проти нього ведеться розслідування у зв’язку зі звільненням директора ФБР Джеймса Комі.

Секулоу заявив, що коментар президента був відповіддю на публікацію газети The Washington Post, яка повідомила про розслідування, яке щодо Трампа веде спецпрокурор Роберт Мюллер. За даними видання, розслідування розпочалося після звільнення директора ФБР Джеймса Комі. Трамп був украй обурений повідомленням про розслідування його дій.

У Конгресі США триває розслідування можливого втручання Росії в торішніх виборах американського президента. Аналогічне розслідування проводить і ФБР. Розпочато також незалежна від адміністрації розслідування з цього ж питання. Його курирує спецпрокурор Мюллер. Йому надано право розслідувати дії президента, якщо для цього виникнуть підстави.