The Malta Independent 3 March 2024, Sunday
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20 refugees per 1,000 people in Malta

Malta Independent Friday, 13 September 2013, 09:00 Last update: about 11 years ago

A total of 23,600 people per day were forced to abandon their homes and seek protection last year, the highest rate in over a decade, according to the UNHCR.

At the same time, 3,000 people a day – roughly 1.1 million people – were recognised as refugees, compared to “just” 800,000 people in 2011.

Malta, as is well publicised locally, proportionally hosts one of the highest proportion of refugees per population, with 20 refugees per 1,000 people in 2012. This figure was the eighth highest in the world: Jordan occupied the top spot with 49 refugees per 1,000 people, followed by Chad (33), Lebanon (32), Republic of Congo (24), Syria (23), Mauritania (23) and Djibouti (22).

Curiously, in the wake of the Syrian civil war, Syria not only is among the countries hosting the largest number of refugees, but also a main source of new asylum seekers and newly-recognised refugees elsewhere. The country has long hosted many Palestinian refugees, and more recently, it has also hosted many refugees from Iraq.

The UNHCR figures are based on statistics provided by national governments, and Malta’s figures for 2012 list 8,248 refugees and 767 asylum seekers whose cases were pending.

Only a small proportion of asylum seekers in Malta are actually recognised as refugees, but most do receive subsidiary or humanitarian protection: the UNHCR’s statistics do not distinguish between the two.

Recent statistics show that the percentage of refugees in developing countries has been steadily increasing over the years, from 70% of the world’s total in 2002 to 81% 10 years later.

The largest number of refugees can be found in Pakistan, which hosts 1.64 million refugees who mainly came over from neighbouring Afghanistan. Iran is second with 868,000 refugees, followed by Germany with 590,000, Kenya with 565,000 and Syria with 477,000.

The main countries of origin of refugees are Afghanistan (2.59 million), Somalia (1.14 million), Iraq  (764,400), Syria (728,500) and Sudan (569,200), and the five countries account for 55% of the 10.5 million refugees under UNHCR’s responsibility

The figures, however, do not include the 4.9 million Palestinian refugees registered by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. These refugees are mainly people who fled or were expelled from Israel during the fighting that followed the end of the British Mandate over Palestine, and their descendants.

Somalis account for the lion’s share of people applying for asylum in Malta, and an overwhelming proportion receive protection. The influx is triggered by the country’s prolonged civil unrest – it has not had a properly-functioning central government for over 20 years.

This unrest has led to an effective exodus from the country: the UNHCR points out that in the past 6 years, a staggering 763,000 people – an estimated 8% of the total population – fled the country.

There are also 17.7 million internally-displaced people – those who have fled their homes and moved elsewhere in the country. Predictably, these are concentrated in countries which have witnessed regional unrest: Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan host the highest number of internally-displaced.

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