Biden blames Russia for record number of refugees
US President Joe Biden has linked Russia’s offensive in Ukraine with the record number of displaced people worldwide recently reported by the UN.
In a statement on the occasion of World Refugee Day published by the White House on Monday, Biden said that “as a result of Russia’s war against Ukraine we recently reached a grim milestone.” He added that “according to the UN Refugee Agency, more than 100 million people are now forcibly displaced, more than at any other time in history.”
Established in 1950, the Refugee Agency (UNHCR) provides aid and human rights assistance to refugees and also keeps track of statistics on displaced persons. It reported back in May that “the number of people forced to flee conflict, violence, human rights violations and persecution has now crossed the staggering milestone of 100 million for the first time on record.”
Biden also used the opportunity to heap praise on the US for hosting more than 80,000 Afghans over the past year, as well as providing “temporary safe haven to tens of thousands of Ukrainians.”
According to UNHCR data, there were 5,137,933 Ukrainian refugees recorded across Europe as of June 16. Of those, 1,230,800 had crossed into Russia, 1,169,497 had entered Poland, 780,000 had fled to Germany, with the rest spread among other European nations.
UN figures for Afghanistan indicate that “some 3.4 million people are currently displaced,” with 2,069,703 Afghan refugees registered in five neighboring nations by late May 2022. US-led forces withdrew from the country late last August, with the Taliban soon taking over all of the country.
Meanwhile, on the same day the White House released Biden’s statement, China’s Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Zhao Lijian posted a tweet captioned “The Persecutor of our times. #HumanRights.” It features a medley of photos that appear to juxtapose US service members with injured civilians in some Middle Eastern country or countries. The footnote below clarifies that “Since 2001, the war U.S. provoked in the Middle East have [sic] killed 900,000 people, including about 335,000 civilians, and displaced tens of millions.”
A report by the UNHCR estimated that there were around 1.6 million Iraqi refugees and 1.5 million internally displaced persons in Iraq in 2010 – one year before US troops withdrew from the country. Washington launched its operation back in 2003, claiming that it had evidence then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. The US eventually had to acknowledge that its intelligence had been flawed, as it failed to find any such weapons in the country.