The Red Cross World Disasters Report 2012 shows that more than 72 million people were living as forced migrants last year, due to conflicts, natural disasters and development, which is more than three times Australia's population.
In 2011, 336 natural disasters claimed more than 31,000 lives. It was the most expensive year in the past 20 years in terms of disaster costs. In all, natural disasters caused A$350.47 billion in damages.
Of the more than 72 million people who were living as forced migrants last year, 42.8 million had fled their homes due to conflict - ranging from people displaced in Central Africa to Afghan refugees - while 14.9 million others had been displaced by natural disasters.
Perhaps surprisingly, at least 15 million people had been forced to leave their homes due to development projects like dams and urban projects.
More than 20 million people forced into migration are trapped in long-term displacement, living in camps or in unplanned parts of cities - such as in areas of Iraq and the Dadaab refugee camp on the Kenyan-Somali border - typically unable to work or access basic social services, according to the report.
The report recommends that national governments ensure that forced migrants have the support they need to find work and that there is better protection and more assistance to integrate them into their new communities. It recommends that governments need to adopt new policies that recognise the rights of forced migrants.
The Australian context
Australian Red Cross works in four main areas around disasters internationally. As part of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, Australian Red Cross provides technical assistance in emergency water and sanitation, shelter, health and nutrition as well as disaster management and relief supplies to National Societies in countries affected by disasters.
Red Cross provides humanitarian assistance for refugees and asylum seekers whose survival, dignity, physical or mental health is at risk to ensure they receive the humanitarian support they need while their immigration status is being resolved. This assistance is based on need, without discrimination and irrespective of their legal status, how they arrived in Australia or their stage in the visa determination process.
- Australia granted 13,799 visas to asylum seekers in 2010-11. There were 72 million people living as forced migrants in 2011, which is more than 5,200 times the number of refugees Australia has accepted.
Disasters in 2011
- The deadliest disaster was the earthquake and tsunami in Japan that killed 19,846 people. The second deadliest was Tropical Cyclone Washi that hit the Philippines in December and killed more than 1,400 people.
- The earthquake and tsunami in Japan was by far the most expensive disaster, costing A$203 billion and accounting for more than half of all reported damages. The Thai floods cost A$38 billion and the Christchurch earthquakes in New Zealand cost A$17 billion.
Photos: A group of women displaced by massive floods in Pakistan during 2010 learn how to read and write in a tent in Khairpur (Valérie Batselaere/IFRC). Japanese Red Cross assisted tens of thousands of displaced people following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami (Toshirharu Kato/Japanese Red Cross). Hundreds of thousands of Somalians remain displaced due to conflict and drought over recent years. (Reuters).