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More than 82 million people forcibly displaced in 2020
by UNHCR, NRC, IDMC, Red Cross, agencies
6:06pm 15th Sep, 2021
Nov. 2021
The trend in rising forced displacement continued into 2021 – with global numbers now exceeding 84 million – as more people fled violence, insecurity and the effects of climate change, according to the Mid-Year Trends report released today by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.
The report, for January-June 2021, showed an increase from 82.4 million at end 2020. This resulted largely from internal displacement, with more people fleeing multiple active conflicts around the world, especially in Africa. The report also noted that COVID-19 border restrictions continued to limit access to asylum in many locations.
“The international community is failing to prevent violence, persecution and human rights violations, which continue to drive people from their homes,” said Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. “In addition, the effects of climate change are exacerbating existing vulnerabilities in many areas hosting the forcibly displaced”.
Nearly 51 million people are now internally displaced, as conflict and violence flared around the world during the first half of 2021. Much of the new internal displacement was in Africa, including in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (1.3 million) and in Ethiopia (1.2 million). Violence in Myanmar and Afghanistan also forced people from their homes between January-June 2021.
The number of refugees also continued to increase during the first half of 2021, reaching nearly 21 million. Most new refugees came from five countries: Central African Republic (71,800), South Sudan (61,700) Syria (38,800), Afghanistan (25,200) and Nigeria (20,300).
The lethal mix of conflict, COVID-19, poverty, food insecurity and the climate emergency has compounded the humanitarian plight of the displaced, most of whom are hosted in developing regions.
Solutions for forcibly displaced populations remain in short supply. Under 1 million internally displaced people and 126,700 refugees were able to return home in the first half of 2021.
“The international community must redouble its efforts to make peace, and at the same time must ensure resources are available to displaced communities and their hosts. It is the communities and countries with the fewest resources that continue to shoulder the greatest burden in protecting and caring for the forcibly displaced, and they must be better supported by the rest of the international community,” Grandi added.
Sep. 2021
COVID-19 tops list of UNHCR’s most underfunded crises in 2021
Global efforts to shield forcibly displaced people from the health and economic impacts of COVID-19 are under threat due to a critical shortage of funding, according to a new report showing that UNHCR’s pandemic response tops the list of its most underfunded emergencies in 2021.
Other emergency situations where UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, faces a potentially disastrous lack of resources include Iraq and Syria, where the safety and wellbeing of millions is under threat as they scramble to prepare for the looming winter.
The report reveals that as of 31 August, projected COVID-related needs of $924 million had attracted only $307.3 million in funding – just a third of the total required. The shortfall leaves refugees, internally displaced and stateless people exposed to the virus and its economic impacts, including loss of income and the threat of eviction.
“The pandemic has hurt forcibly displaced and stateless people in ways that reach far beyond the risk posed by the virus itself. And the failure to adequately fund the response only deepens their plight,” said Ann Burton, UNHCR’s Chief of Public Health, at a news briefing in Geneva.
Refugees have borne the full impact of the economic repercussions of the pandemic, Burton added. As the shutters came down on business and workplaces, their precarious livelihoods were often the first to go.
Economic deprivation meant greater risk of eviction and more difficulty affording food and other basics, which in turn increased the risk of exploitation and gender-based violence for children and adults alike.
Lockdowns and border restrictions introduced by countries in response to the pandemic also excluded and endangered people attempting to cross borders to reach safety. At the same time, the inequitable access to vaccines of many refugee-hosting states risks leaving forcibly displaced and stateless people out in the cold.
“As UNHCR, we reiterate our call on states to share excess doses with COVAX in a timely way, to address the global vaccine inequity and avoid prolonging the pandemic,” said Burton.
In Iraq, UNHCR’s operations for this year have so far received just 34 per cent of the total funding required, followed closely by the Syria situation at 39 per cent.
In the countries affected by the Iraq and Syria emergencies, COVID-19 has compounded the enormous challenges faced by 3.3 million refugees, internally displaced people and returnees, who are in urgent need of aid to prepare for the forthcoming winter.
Among other interventions, cash assistance is critical to meet their basic needs. The lack of sufficient funding to meet their requirements would significantly compromise the livelihoods and wellbeing of the most vulnerable among them.
Other global responses struggling to attract sufficient financial support from donors include the Venezuela, South Sudan and Democratic Republic of the Congo situations, all of which have received less than half the funding required for 2021.
The report makes the point that no situation is irredeemable. This was clearly shown by the surge of funding recently pledged towards UNHCR's Afghanistan appeal, which lifted it out of the 10 most underfunded emergencies.
However, Afghanistan remains the exception that proves the rule: many displacement situations remain critically overlooked, with dangerously low funding levels only addressed once they lead to life-threatening emergencies that push them to the top of the international agenda.
June 2021
More than 82 million people forcibly displaced in 2020 (UNHCR)
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is urging world leaders to step up their efforts to foster peace, stability and cooperation in order to halt and begin reversing nearly a decade-long trend of surging displacement driven by violence and persecution.
Despite the pandemic, the number of people fleeing wars, violence, persecution and human rights violations in 2020 rose to nearly 82.4 million people, according to UNHCR’s latest annual Global Trends report released today in Geneva. This is a further four per cent increase on top of the already record-high 79.5 million at the end of 2019.
The report shows that by the end of 2020 there were 20.7 million refugees under UNHCR mandate, 5.7 million Palestine refugees and 3.9 million Venezuelans displaced abroad. Another 48 million people were internally displaced (IDPs) within their own countries.
A further 4.1 million were asylum-seekers. These numbers indicate that despite the pandemic and calls for a global ceasefire, conflict continued to chase people from their homes.
“Behind each number is a person forced from their home and a story of displacement, dispossession and suffering. They merit our attention and support not just with humanitarian aid, but in finding solutions to their plight.”
“While the 1951 Refugee Convention and the Global Compact on Refugees provide the legal framework and tools to respond to displacement, we need much greater political will to address conflicts and persecution that force people to flee in the first place,” said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.
Girls and boys under the age of 18 account for 42 per cent of all forcibly displaced people. They are particularly vulnerable, especially when crises continue for years. New UNHCR estimates show that almost one million children were born as refugees between 2018 and 2020. Many of them may remain refugees for years to come.
“The tragedy of so many children being born into exile should be reason enough to make far greater efforts to prevent and end conflict and violence,” said Grandi.
The report also notes that at the peak of the pandemic in 2020, over 160 countries had closed their borders, with 99 States making no exception for people seeking protection. Yet with improved measures - such as medical screenings at borders, health certification or temporary quarantine upon arrival, simplified registration procedures and remote interviewing, more and more countries found ways to ensure access to asylum while trying to stem the spread of the pandemic.
While people continued to flee across borders, millions more were displaced 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.
Over the course of 2020, some 3.2 million IDPs and just 251,000 refugees returned to their homes –a 40 and 21 per cent drop, respectively, compared to 2019. Another 33,800 refugees were naturalized by their countries of asylum. Refugee resettlement registered a drastic plunge - just 34,400 refugees were resettled last year, the lowest level in 20 years – a consequence of reduced number of resettlement places and Covid-19.
“Solutions require global leaders and those with influence to put aside their differences, end an egoistic approach to politics, and instead focus on preventing and solving conflict and ensuring respect for human rights,” said Grandi.
UNHCR 2020 Global Trends Report – key data:
82.4 million people forcibly displaced globally (79.5 million in 2019) – a 4 per cent increase; 26.4 million refugees (26.0 million in 2019) including: 20.7 million refugees under UNHCR’s mandate (20.4 million in 2019); 5.7 million Palestine refugees under UNRWA’s mandate (5.6 million in 2019); 48.0 million internally displaced people (45.7 million in 2019); 4.1 million asylum-seekers (4.1 million in 2019); 3.9 million Venezuelans displaced abroad (3.6 million in 2019).
2020 is the ninth year of uninterrupted rise in forced displacement worldwide. Today, one per cent of humanity is displaced and there are twice as many forcibly displaced people than in 2011 when the total was just under 40 million.
More than two thirds of all people who fled abroad came from just five countries: Syria (6.7 million), Venezuela (4.0 million), Afghanistan (2.6 million), South Sudan (2.2 million) and Myanmar (1.1 million).
Vast majority of world’s refugees – nearly nine in 10 refugees (86 per cent) – are hosted by countries neighbouring crises areas and low- and middle-income countries. The Least Developed Countries provided asylum to 27 per cent of the total.
May 2021
55 million people were displaced in their home country at the beginning of 2021, reports the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre
Last year, one person every second was forced to flee conflict or disaster. More than twice as many people are now displaced within their own country, compared to the number of people who have fled over the border as refugees. Extreme weather is increasingly a factor.
A total of 55 million people were displaced in their home country at the beginning of 2021, according to a new report from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). Some 20 million of these were children under the age of 15.
“These are the worst numbers in a decade,” says Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). “We have failed to protect the world’s most vulnerable people from both war and disasters.”
Over 30 million people fled disasters in 2020, an increase of over five million on the previous year, and the highest level since 2012. Weather-related events, primarily storms and floods, were responsible for 98 per cent of all disaster displacement.
One of the hardest hit regions was South and Central America. The Atlantic hurricane season was the most active on record, with 30 major storms, forcing millions to leave their homes. In November, hurricanes Iota and Eta caused chaos and flooding in 12 Central American and Caribbean countries. Four million people were affected in Honduras alone.
In addition, intense cyclone seasons in South and East Asia and the Pacific, and extended rainy seasons across the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa, uprooted millions of people. Cyclone Amphan triggered nearly five million evacuations across Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Myanmar.
A convergence of conflict and disasters led many people to be displaced for a second or even a third time, increasing their vulnerability. Many of those who fled flooding in Yemen had already been uprooted at least once by the country’s civil war.
Prolonged conflicts and increased violence
By the end of 2020, 48 million people were still displaced from their homes due to conflict and violence, an increase of over two million on the previous year. This is the highest number ever recorded.
The highest numbers of displacements were in Syria (6.6M), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (5.3M) and Colombia (4.9M). Together, these three countries accounted for over a third of the world’s internally displaced people.
In fourth place came Yemen with 3.6 million people displaced, followed by Afghanistan, where 3.5 million are displaced within their home country.
Escalating violence and the expansion of armed groups in Ethiopia, Mozambique and Burkina Faso fuelled some of the world’s fastest growing displacement crises.
The reasons people are forced to flee their homes are many and complex. They include climate-related and environmental factors, protracted conflicts and political instability.
In addition, the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 led to rising poverty, with many people going hungry or lacking access to health care. Humanitarian efforts to support people forced to flee were hindered by travel and access restrictions, and the pandemic will continue to have consequences for humanitarian efforts in the future.
“In a world made more fragile by the Covid-19 pandemic, sustained political will and investment in locally-owned solutions will be more important than ever,” says the director of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, Alexandra Bilak.
* Already at risk before COVID, displaced people face new barriers to work, education, food and social protection, reports UNHCR:
* The loss of land and housing is a key feature of internal displacement regardless of its cause. Globally, both internal displacement and tensions over land are on the rise. Tensions and conflict related to land and housing are likely to increase in the future owing to climate change, natural hazards, large-scale land investments, extractive industries, food insecurity, population growth and rapid urbanization. Housing, land and property issues arise at all stages of displacement.
They drive conflict and displacement, are a consequence of displacement and pose obstacles durable solutions. Addressing housing, land and property issues in situations of displacement is therefore essential to preventing displacement, mitigating its impact and achieving durable solutions, report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Cecilia Jimenez-Damary:
* New Climate Migration Modelling - Human Face on Climate Impacts
As many as 216 million people could move within their own countries due to slow-onset climate change impacts by 2050. They will migrate from areas with lower water availability and crop productivity and from areas affected by sea-level rise and storm surges. Hotspots of internal climate migration could emerge as early as 2030 and continue to spread and intensify by 2050. The reports also finds that rapid and concerted action to reduce global emissions, and support green, inclusive, and resilient development, could significantly reduce the scale of internal climate migration.
* Save displaced people from slavery by granting right to work, urges UN expert. (OHCHR)
Governments could boost their own economies and save more than 80 million people from the threat of modern slavery if they granted the world’s forcibly displaced people the right to work, a UN expert told the Human Rights Council.
“Almost one percent of the world’s population, some 82.4 million people, have been forced to flee war, violence, conflict or persecution, and find safety either abroad or within their own countries,” said Tomoya Obokata, UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, as he presented a report on the link between displacement and contemporary forms of slavery.
“These refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people are especially vulnerable to contemporary forms of slavery because they often face poverty, discrimination, unemployment, job insecurity and limited access to basic services in their new communities,” he said. Displaced children and stateless people face even greater risks, he added.
If they are not allowed to work, displaced people may be dependent on humanitarian and development assistance, but also can be pushed into forced or bonded labour if they feel they have no alternative, Obokata said.
“It is in the interest of host communities and States to include displaced people in the labour market,” he said. “If they are able to support themselves, they can also contribute to the local economy.
“Some States have made progress in ensuring that displaced persons have opportunities to support themselves, but more needs to be done to break the vicious cycle between displacement and contemporary forms of slavery,” Obokata said.

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