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Record 70.8 million people displaced at end of 2018: UN

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More than 70 million people were counted last year as displaced from their homes, a record that underestimates the real number of refugees and asylum seekers, the UN said Wednesday.

In its annual global trends report, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) described the figure of 70.8 million at the end of 2018 as “conservative”, particularly because the number of people who fled Venezuela’s devastating crisis is undercounted.

At the end of 2017, by comparison, 68.5 million people were counted as being forcibly displaced by violence or persecution.

The UNHCR attributed the increase partly to surging displacement in Ethiopia caused by inter-ethnic conflict, and in Venezuela, where thousands are fleeing every day amid an economic collapse that has triggered shortages of basic food and medicine.

An estimated 3.3 million people have left Venezuela since the start of 2016, according to the UN.

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UNHCR head Filippo Grandi told reporters in Geneva the figure of 70.8 million only includes Venezuelans who had officially applied for asylum — roughly half a million people.

Overall, the number of displaced people in the world has doubled over the last 20 years and now exceeds the population of Thailand.

The trend, Grandi said, continues to go in “the wrong direction”.

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– Conflicts ‘never’ end –

According to Amnesty International, a refugee is a person who flees their home country and cannot or will not return due to conflict or fear of persecution.

The report lists 41.3 million internally displaced people (IDPs), 25.9 million refugees, and 3.5 million asylum seekers — those awaiting a decision on their bid for official refugee protection.

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AFP/File / JOSEPH EID Syria is among the countries with the highest number of internally displaced people, the UN says.

The countries with the most internally displaced people — fleeing within their own countries — are Syria, wracked by conflict since 2011 and Colombia, plagued by decades of violence, said the UNHCR.

The group of refugees, it added, included 5.5 million Palestinians scattered across several countries, notably Lebanon and Jordan.

The best solution for a refugee is to be able to return home once their country stabilises, but Grandi noted that 20 percent have been in exile for more than two decades.

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“We have become almost unable to make peace,” the UNHCR chief said.

“It is true there are new conflicts, new situations producing refugees…, (but) the old ones never get resolved,” he added. “When is the last conflict that you remember was resolved?”

– ‘Praise’ for Germany –

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The UNHCR has at times sought to push back against the phrase “migrant crisis”, especially as it has been applied to an influx of people into Europe via the Mediterranean sea.

The agency has argued that while mass migration does pose serious challenges, it can be managed, particularly by wealthier nations.

AFP/File / FATHI NASRI The UN has praised Germany for accepting migrants arriving in Europe via the Mediterranean sea.

Grandi praised Germany for its acceptance of migrants and its efforts to “demystify” the notion that migration is unmanageable, “even when the numbers are very big.”

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“I usually don’t like to praise and criticise but I think in this case, I’d like to praise Germany for what it has done,” said Grandi in Geneva, ahead of the report’s launch in Berlin.

He noted that Chancellor Angela Merkel had paid a “heavy price” politically for her openness to migration, arguing this made her actions “even more courageous”.


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Trump launches furious attack on Washington Post for new report about his racist tweet debacle: ‘Presidential harassment!’

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President Donald Trump launched yet another attack on the Washington Post on Sunday morning, accusing the paper of "Presidential harassment!" for reporting on the fall-out from his racist tweets and his equally racist rally in North Carolina.

Responding to the Post's report that Kellyanne Conway was forced to tell the president that he had set off  a firestorm last Sunday with his tweets attacking four Democratic lawmakers, the president pushed back using his old stand-by: "Fake News."

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Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera turns his back on Trump after racist furor: His ‘critics were much more right than I’

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Deep in a report on the fissures Donald Trump created between himself and some of his defenders, after he launched a racist attack on four Democratic lawmakers that led to an equally racist chant at a North Carolina presidential rally, Fox News contributor Gerald Rivera admitted that he now finds it near impossible to defend the president.

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Panicky Kellyanne Conway was forced to explain to Trump why his Twitter attack on Dem lawmakers was racist: report

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According to a behind-the-scenes report in the Washington Post, senior adviser Kellyanne Conway had to frantically explain to Donald Trump that his tweets attacking four Democratic lawmakers -- all of whom are women of color -- were racist and that he needed to walk them back.

The report states that Trump made the tweets early last Sunday and then was greeted by Conway with bad news after he returned from playing golf.

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