Israel-Hamas war: UN expects wave of Palestinian refugees after Gaza war

The United Nations refugee chief warned that the Gaza conflict could spur more displacement in the wider region as UN officials, politicians and aid groups gathered in Geneva on Wednesday to seek solutions to a global displacement crisis.

A record 114 million people around the world have been driven from their homes, including about 40 million refugees fleeing dozens of active conflicts including in Sudan and Ukraine.

Flight from Israel’s bombardment of Gaza since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas terrorists in southern Israel has also internally displaced 85% of the Palestinian enclave’s population.

“A major human catastrophe is unfolding in the Gaza Strip and so far the Security Council has failed to stop the violence,” Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, told the Global Refugee Forum in Geneva, an event hosted every four years.

A screen shows the voting results during the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on ceasefire resolution in Gaza, in New York City, US, December 12, 2023 (credit: REUTERS/EDUARDO MUNOZ)

“We foresee more civilian deaths and suffering and also further displacement that threatens the region.”

Grandi also urged the international community not to forget other crises spurring displacement.

An issue faced by refugees

Attendees at the forum, which runs until Friday, are expected to make pledges around specific refugee-related issues, such as education and promoting the voluntary return to home countries. Only 60% of refugee children are enrolled in school.

Grandi said he hoped there would also be funding pledges to the UN agency, which has a $400 million shortfall for 2023. He said there was “great uncertainty” about how much UNHCR donors, including the United States and Germany, can give in 2024.

In an interview before the forum, Grandi said many Western politicians were becoming less welcoming in the face of an influx of refugees.

On Wednesday, he said host countries facing refugees should not be taken for granted.

“Let’s remember that most refugees – 75% to be precise – are hosted by low- and middle-income countries, often already struggling themselves to provide and care for their own citizens,” he said.

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