Covid 19 pandemic and lock down restrictions shut people indoors but they never slowed down forced displacement around the world but instead left thousands of refugees and asylum seekers vulnerable and stranded.
In 2020, the world saw nearly 82.4 million people on the run, a four per cent increase from 2019, according to the Global report 2020 by the UNHCR. This means that one in 95 people are displaced globally.
The UN Agency said that the actual figures are not yet clear but data shows that arrivals of new refugees and asylum-seekers sharply went down in most regions. The report said that this could be about 1.5 million fewer people than would have been expected in non-COVID circumstances.
NEW AND OLD CRISES
- The UNHCR said several crises (new, longstanding and some resurfacing after years) forced 11.2 million people to flee in 2020.
- By the end of 2020, there were 20.7 million refugees under UNHCR’s mandate. Another 48 million people were internally displaced (IDPs) within their own countries.
- Driven mostly by crises in Ethiopia, Sudan, Sahel countries, Mozambique, Yemen, Afghanistan and Colombia, the number of internally displaced people rose by more than 2.3 million.
- With respect to international displacement, Syria topped with 6.8 million people, followed by Venezuela with 4.9 million. Afghanistan and South Sudan came next with 2.8 and 2.2 million respectively.
- Turkey continued to host the largest number of refugees with about 4 million people. Ninety two per cent of them are Syrian refugees. Colombia followed next with over 1.7 million displaced Venezuelans.
- Germany is in the third position, hosting almost 1.5 million, with Syrian refugees and asylum-seekers as the largest group (44%). Pakistan and Uganda completed the top-5 hosting countries, with about 1.4 million each.
- At the peak of the last year, over 160 countries had closed their borders, with 99 States making no exception for people seeking protection.
Poverty, conflict, hunger, climate change, food insecurity and displacement are interconnected and mutually reinforcing that drove more and more people to search for safety and security.
A CALL TO END THE SUFFERING
The UN Agency asked world leaders to step up their efforts to foster peace, stability and cooperation to halt and begin reversing nearly a decade-long trend of surging displacement driven by violence and persecution.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said, “behind each number is a person forced from their home and a story of forced displacement, dispossession and suffering. They merit our attention and support not just with humanitarian aid, but in finding solutions to their plight.”
Grandi said that the tragedy of so many children born into exile was of great concern and efforts needed to make far greater efforts to prevent and end conflict and violence.
The UNHCR said that children under the age of 18 account for 42 percent of all forcibly displaced. They are particularly vulnerable, especially when crises continue for years. The agency noted that almost one million children were born refugees between 2018 and 2020.
The UNHCR said that just 251,000 refugees out of 3.2 million internally displaced returned to their homes in 2020. Another 33,800 refugees were naturalized by their countries of asylum.
Refugee resettlement registered a drastic plunge with just 34,400 refugees resettled, the lowest level in 20 years – a consequence of a reduced number of resettlement places and COVID-19.
Grandi said that global leaders should set aside their differences, end egoistic approach to politics to find solutions for the displacement issue. They should focus on preventing and solving conflict and ensuring respect for human rights,” Grandi added.
TRENDS AT A GLANCE
- 4 MILLION forcibly displaced at the end of 2020
- 7 million Palestine refugees under UNRWA’s mandate
- 0 million internally displaced people
- 1 4.1 million asylum-seekers
- 9 million Venezuelans displaced abroad
- Developing countries hosted 86 per cent of the world’s refugees and Venezuelans displaced abroad
- 73 per cent of refugees and Venezuelans displaced abroad lived in countries neighbouring their countries of origin
- Turkey hosted nearly 3.7 million refugees, the largest population worldwide. Colombia was second with more than 1.7 million, including Venezuelans displaced abroad.
- More than two thirds (68 per cent) of all refugees and Venezuelans displaced abroad came from just five countries: Syrian Arab Republic 6.7 million Venezuela5 4.0 million Afghanistan 2.6 million South Sudan 2.2 million Myanmar 1.1 million
- UNHCR estimates that between 2018 and 2020, an average of between 290,000 and 340,000 children were born into a refugee life per year