The Take Away

Number of Displaced Surge as Conflict in Syria Continues

Editor's Note: In an interview on "The Take Away" with John Hockenberry, Megan Bradley discusses Syrian humanitarian crisis and the over 45 million people displaced in 2012. Read an excerpt below and listen to the full interview online.

John Hockenberry [JH]: We begin this hour noting that yesterday was the official United Nations Day of Refugees which the UN noted with numbers reported to be the highest in 20 years. 45 million displaced people in 2012, an estimated 7.6 million people newly displaced last year, including more than a quarter of the population of Syria.

“10 million people will be in desperate need of food, shelter and assistance. So the lives of millions of peoples are in your hands, and you must find common ground.” (sound byte)

 That’s actress Angelina Jolie speaking there as a representative for the United Nations at a refugee camp in Jordan. Joining us now is Megan Bradley, a fellow at the joint Brookings-London School of Economics Project on Internal Displacement. Megan, welcome.

Megan Bradley [MB]: Thank you for having me.

JH: So give us a sense of the scale – I said at the top of the hour that the biggest city in the world is a tent city of 45 million if you count all of the displaced people. Of course, they’re dispersed around the world. Give me a bit of a breakdown of that 45 million, if you could.

MB: Sure. Well, the past year has been a really horrible one for the displacement of human beings due to conflict and persecution. We’ve seen, in the past year, an increase of almost 3 million in the number of people who are displaced around the world. So that now we have a total of 15.4 million who are registered as refugees by the United Nations and a total of 28.8 million people who are on the record as having been displaced within their own countries as a result of conflict and human rights violations.

JH: The internal displacement seems to be a bigger story almost, and that comes from various kinds of reasons. Everything from war to climate change.

MB: That’s true. So these are individuals who are often in a situation that’s very much like refugees, but because they haven’t crossed an international border, oftentimes we don’t hear much about them in the media. It can be very difficult for humanitarian agencies and UN organizations to reach them with assistance. So, ultimately their governments are responsible for providing them with human rights protection and with the assistance that they often need to save their lives, in fact. But it’s often the governments who are really responsible for their displacement in the first place, so it can be quite a paradoxical situation.

JH: Well, it’s a horror show. I mean is it the case that the people in Congo for instance – one of the largest populations of internally displaced – are out of the reach of the United Nations or the international community at large?

MB: Well some of them are being reached by NGOs and UN agencies, but many are out of reach. This is also a massive problem in Syria at the moment. So we hear quite a bit about the 1.6 million Syrian refugees who are in neighboring countries like Jordan and Lebanon, but we hear much less really about the 4.25 million who are displaced within their own country. And many of these individuals are out of the reach of humanitarian organizations and their government is certainly not coming through on its responsibility towards them. In many cases, obviously the government is actively persecuting its own citizens.