The UN refugee agency has warned that the “catastrophe” unfolding in the Gaza Strip threatens to create additional displacement across the Middle East.
Speaking at the Global Refugee Forum on Wednesday, Filippo Grandi, the UN high commissioner for refugees, said that the fighting between Israel and Hamas threatens to destabilise the entire region and further swell the number of displaced people globally, which already sits at an all-time high of 144 million.
Keep readinglist of 4 items
“A major human catastrophe is unfolding in the Gaza Strip,” Grandi warned, lamenting that “so far, the Security Council has failed to stop the violence.”
“We foresee more civilian deaths and suffering and also further displacement that threatens the region,” Grandi warned.
According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNWRA), nearly 1.9 million people – more than 85 percent of the population in Gaza – have been displaced since the Israeli bombardments started in early October.
Prior to the UN General Assembly ceasefire resolution, the high commissioner had ardently called for a humanitarian ceasefire “to prevent the ongoing massive displacement from growing more and beyond #Gaza.”
More displacement “would be catastrophic for Palestinians, who know the trauma of exile; and solving it would be impossible, further jeopardizing any chance of peace,” he posted on X.
A humanitarian ceasefire is needed in Gaza also to prevent the ongoing massive displacement from growing more and beyond #Gaza: this would be catastrophic for Palestinians, who know the trauma of exile; and solving it would be impossible, further jeopardizing any chance of peace.
— Filippo Grandi (@FilippoGrandi) December 10, 2023
Warnings about a wider displacement of Palestinians from Gaza have grown as Israel’s forces have pushed across the whole of the enclave, regardless of designating the south as a safe zone.
Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said Israel was implementing a policy to push Palestinians out of the territory through a war that he said meets the “legal definition of genocide” on Sunday.
Philippe Lazzarini, the head of UNRWA, also accused Israel of seeking a mass expulsion of people from Gaza into Egypt.
“The United Nations and several member states, including the United States, have firmly rejected forcibly displacing Gazans out of the Gaza Strip,” he warned on Sunday.
Israeli officials have in recent months suggested “voluntary resettlement of Palestinians, for humanitarian reasons, outside of the Strip”, or resettlement in tent cities in the Sinai Desert in Egypt.
Record levels of displacement
Grandi also urged the UN officials, politicians and aid groups gathered in Geneva “not lose sight of other pressing humanitarian and refugee crises”.
Noting Russia’s war in Ukraine, the civil war in Sudan, and the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, he said that conflicts and crises had already generated record displacement even before the Gaza war erupted.
“Every refugee is a symptom of our collective failure to ensure peace and security,” Grandi warned, saying the world must work together to ameliorate such preventable tragedies.
“Every refugee is a symptom of our collective failure to ensure peace and security. Refugee situations don’t have to turn into crises if we work together to address and manage them.”
— Filippo Grandi (@FilippoGrandi) December 11, 2023
The number of people displaced worldwide passed 114 million by the end of September, an all-time high.
Grandi said that amounts to “114 million shattered dreams, disrupted lives, interrupted hopes. It is a figure that reflects a crisis – many crises – of humanity”.
Grandi appealed to participants to make the forum “a moment of unity, in which all of us join forces to ensure that those who flee because their life, freedom and security are threatened can find protection, and that everything is done to resolve their exile as soon as possible”.