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Violence in Sahel Drives More Refugees to Europe

A woman looks after people claimed to feel not safe because of xenophobic attacks in central Cape Town, South Africa, March 1, 2020.

The head of the UN Refugee Agency says Europe should be much more worried than it is that larger numbers of people from Africa’s Sahel region could seek to move to Europe. Refugees would be escaping violence, floods, and threats to food security caused by Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi calls for more efforts to build peace in the world as conflicts and crises like those in Ukraine, Venezuela, Myanmar, Syria and beyond have driven over 100 million people to leave their homes — both within their own countries and abroad.

Filippo’s comments came as the UN Refugee Agency issued its latest report on Thursday on global migration.

The report found that over 89 million people had been displaced by conflict, climate change, violence and human rights abuses by 2021. The figure has risen to more than 100 million people this year after Russia’s invasion to Ukraine. The number has swelled in Ukraine alone to reach 12 million people fled their homes to other parts of the country of abroad.

The world is facing growing food insecurity due to the Russian invasion. The African continent relies on imports of wheat and other food from Ukraine. Ukraine is a key breadbasket to the world and has greatly hurt grain exports to Africa.

The African Union has appealed for help to access grain that is blocked in Ukrainian silos and unable to leave Ukrainian ports amid a Russian naval blockade in the Black Sea.

The UN Refugees Agency says 2021 marked the 15th straight year of annual increase in the number of people displaced within their own countries – to more than 53 million.

Rising violence in places like Myanmar, war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region and extremist insurgencies in the Sahel, particularly in Burkina Faso and Mali are major reasons for the record displacement levels.

Filippo says the Sahel has already faced years of droughts and floods; inequality in wealth, education and access to healthcare; and poor governance. Moreover, growing food insecurity and conflict have added to the pressures.

“People are still suffering — they do not have food, do not have water, do not have shelter and have to flee. I’m very worried about Sahel. And I don't think that we talk enough about this region that is, by the way, so close to Europe. And I think Europe should be much more worried.”

He notes that the events the world was already facing before the war in Ukraine have forced refugees to flee their homes.

“We are now all focused on Ukraine very much, but Ukraine comes after a line of other emergencies.”

"This article contains information sourced from AP and The Independent"