In 2017, some 16.2 million people were forcibly displaced as a result of war, persecution and violence. Protracted armed conflicts continue to be a principal cause of displacement, with over two thirds of the world’s refugees coming from war-torn countries.
A key factor driving these recent figures is the repeated use of explosive weapons, which are generally banned by international law. When air-dropped munitions, multi-barrel rocket launchers or heavy artillery shells are used in towns and cities, they create lasting problems for the local population. People are forced to flee, either because they fear an explosive attack, or because their homes and livelihoods are directly destroyed.
NGOs and international organisations, such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, have highlighted the correlation between the deployment of explosive weapons and the recent unprecedented influx of refugees. According to Handicap International, the vast majority of those fleeing the Syrian conflict choose to do so because of the impact of explosive weapons on their towns and communities.
Additionally, landmines and unexploded ordnance pose a continuous threat to migrants travelling along the Balkans Route. 150 000 pieces of unexploded ordnance remain dotted around areas of the Balkans. Landmines are a particular danger for migrants travelling to destination countries via Bosnia and Herzegovina, where some 80 000 pieces of unexploded ordnance remain active.
The Parliamentary Assembly should look more closely into the link between forced migration and current trends in the conduct of hostilities, and into whether more needs to be done in implementing existing legal standards such as the 1997 UN Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (Ottawa Mine Ban Convention).