UNHCR Touts Higher Refugee Resettlements, Eventually

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi says he looks forward to boosting global refugee resettlements after sharp declines caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and drastic cuts to resettlements in the United States under the former Trump administration.

“The whole pace will pick up in a few months,” Grandi told VOA’s Celia Mendoza Sunday in an interview coinciding with World Refugee Day. “In the whole of 2020, we only resettled 34,000 people (globally). The year before was more than 100,000. The drop was enormous.”

Grandi hailed the Biden administration’s lifting of the U.S. refugee cap from 15,000 in 2020 to 62,500 for the current fiscal year, which ends September 30. But the U.N. refugee chief added that boosting the flow of refugees to receiving nations like the United States takes time.

“I don’t know if we’ll be able to get there (62,500 resettlements) that quickly. What is important is that there is an intention to get there,” Grandi said.

Grandi spoke as the global community observed World Refugee Day, designated by the United Nations to honor and celebrate the resiliency of those fleeing war, famine, ecological devastation and other life-threatening situations.

U.S. President Joe Biden said in a statement Sunday, “On this day, we reaffirm our sacred commitment to alleviate suffering through humanitarian relief and redouble our efforts to achieve lasting solutions for refugees—including through resettlement. We also recommit to engaging in diplomatic efforts to bring an end to the ongoing conflicts that compel refugees to seek safety elsewhere.”

There are more refugees today than there have ever been, according to UNHCR. In a statement, the organization said, “the number of people fleeing wars, violence, persecution and human rights violations in 2020 rose to nearly 82.4 million,” a 4% increase from 79.5 million at the end of 2019, which was then a record.

“And what is quite shocking,” UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner Gillian Triggs told VOA, “is that over the last 10 years the numbers of people who are refugees or forcibly displaced has more than doubled. Something like 48% are children or youths, so we really have generations of children who are separated from their countries of origin.”

World Refugee Day was held globally for the first time on June 20, 2001, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. It was originally known as Africa Refugee Day, before the U.N. General Assembly officially designated it as an international day in December 2000.

Source: Voice of America

US Sending 2.5 Million COVID-19 Vaccine Doses to Taiwan

The United States says it is sending 2.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to Taiwan, substantially increasing its initial promise of 750,000 shots.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said the increased doses from the U.S. are a “moving gesture of friendship.” U.S. President Joe Biden has said his administration will distribute 80 million vaccine doses to countries around the world.

The doses are a fraction of the 500 million shots the United States has committed to distributing free of charge over nearly 100 destinations over the next two years.

The Biden administration plans to distribute 200 million shots this year and another 300 million in 2022 to 92 countries as well as the African Union.

The announcement comes as roughly 45% of Americans have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

By contrast, India, with a population of over 1.3 billion, has vaccinated just over 3% of its population.

India’s Health Ministry said Sunday that it had recorded more than 58,000 new COVID-19 cases in the previous 24-hour period. India has recorded close to 30 million COVID-19 cases. Only the U.S. has more, with 33.5 million.

A Ugandan athlete has tested positive for the coronavirus after arriving in Japan ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, according to an Associated Press report. The athlete was not named and has been placed in quarantine in a government facility. The other eight members of the team tested negative in Japan. The Ugandan team was fully vaccinated and tested before their flight to Japan, AP said.

Brazil became the second country, behind the United States, to record more than half a million COVID-19 deaths, a Health Ministry official said Saturday.

Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga tweeted “500,000 lives lost due to the pandemic that affects our Brazil and the world,” according to an Agence France-Presse report.

Ethel Maciel, an epidemiologist from Espirito Santo University, told AFP, “The third wave is arriving, there’s already in a change in the case and death curves. … Our vaccination [program], which could make a difference, is slow and there are no signs of restrictive measures, quite the contrary.”

Britain held its first full music festival since all mass events were canceled in March of last year, the start of the pandemic.

About 10,000 fans attended a three-day Download Festival held at Donington Park in central England. The event featured 40 U.K.-based bands. The event ends Sunday.

All of those who attended, which was only about a tenth of the festival’s prepandemic audience, were required to take COVID-19 tests before the event. Neither masks nor social distancing protocols were required, event organizers said.

Britain has recorded nearly 128,000 COVID-19-related deaths, the fourth most in the world and the worst in Europe. It also ranks seventh in the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus, with 4.6 million.

Earlier last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson delayed by four weeks a planned lifting of coronavirus-related restrictions on June 21. Britain is battling the highly contagious delta variant of the virus, which was first identified in India.

The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported early Sunday more than 178 million global COVID-19 infections and almost 4 million global deaths. More than 2 billion vaccines have been administered around the world.

Source: Voice of America