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More than 82 million people forcibly displaced in 2020
by UNHCR, NRC, IDMC, Red Cross, agencies
June 2021
More than 82 million people forcibly displaced in 2020 (UNHCR)
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is today 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:

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2020 ties with 2016 as Earth’s Hottest Year on Record
by WMO, NASA, Inside Climate News, agencies
Apr. 2021
Extreme weather combined with COVID-19 in a double blow for millions of people in 2020. However, the pandemic-related economic slowdown failed to put a brake on climate change drivers and accelerating impacts, according to a new report compiled by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and an extensive network of partners.
The report on the State of the Global Climate 2020 documents indicators of the climate system, including greenhouse gas concentrations, increasing land and ocean temperatures, sea level rise, melting ice and glacier retreat and extreme weather. It also highlights impacts on socio-economic development, migration and displacement, food security and land and marine ecosystems.
2020 was one of the three warmest years on record, despite a cooling La Niña event. The global average temperature was about 1.2° Celsius above the pre-industrial (1850-1900) level. The six years since 2015 have been the warmest on record. 2011-2020 was the warmest decade on record.
“It has been 28 years since the World Meteorological Organization issued the first state of the climate report in 1993, due to the concerns raised at that time about projected climate change. While understanding of the climate system and computing power have increased since then, the basic message remains the same and we now have 28 more years of data that show significant temperature increases over land and sea as well as other changes like sea level rise, melting of sea ice and glaciers and changes in precipitation patterns. This underscores the robustness of climate science based on the physical laws governing the behaviour of the climate system,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas.
“All key climate indicators and associated impact information provided in this report highlight relentless, continuing climate change, an increasing occurrence and intensification of extreme events, and severe losses and damage, affecting people, societies and economies. The negative trend in climate will continue for the coming decades independent of our success in mitigation. It is therefore important to invest in adaptation. One of the most powerful ways to adapt is to invest in early warning services and weather observing networks. Several less developed countries have major gaps in their observing systems and are lacking state of the art weather, climate and water services.” said Prof. Taalas.
“This report shows that we have no time to waste. The climate is changing, and the impacts are already too costly for people and the planet. This is the year for action. Countries need to commit to net zero emissions by 2050. They need to submit, well ahead of COP26 in Glasgow, ambitious national climate plans that will collectively cut global emissions by 45 per cent compared to 2010 levels by 2030. And they need to act now to protect people against the disastrous effects of climate change,” said the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
In 2020, COVID-19 added a new and unwelcome dimension to weather, climate and water-related hazards, with wide-ranging combined impacts on human health and well-being. Mobility restrictions, economic downturns and disruptions to the agricultural sector exacerbated the effects of extreme weather and climate events along the entire food supply chain, elevating levels of food insecurity and slowing the delivery of humanitarian assistance. The pandemic also disrupted weather observations and complicated disaster risk reduction efforts.
The report illustrates how climate change poses a risk to the achievement of many of the Sustainable Development Goals, through a cascading chain of interrelated events. These can contribute to reinforcing or worsening existing inequalities. In addition, there is the potential for feedback loops which threaten to perpetuate the vicious cycle of climate change.
Jan. 2021
The year 2020 was one of the three warmest on record, and rivalled 2016 for the top spot, according to a consolidation of five leading international datasets by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). A naturally occurring cooling climate phenomenon, La Niña, put a brake on the heat only at the very end of the year.
All five datasets surveyed by WMO concur that 2011-2020 was the warmest decade on record, in a persistent long-term climate change trend. The warmest six years have all been since 2015, with 2016, 2019 and 2020 being the top three. The differences in average global temperatures among the three warmest years – 2016, 2019 and 2020 – are indistinguishably small. The average global temperature in 2020 was about 14.9°C, 1.2°C above the pre-industrial (1850-1900) level.
“The confirmation by the World Meteorological Organization that 2020 was one of the warmest years on record is yet another stark reminder of the relentless pace of climate change, which is destroying lives and livelihoods across our planet. Today, we are at 1.2 degrees of warming and already witnessing unprecedented weather extremes in every region and on every continent. We are headed for a catastrophic temperature rise of 3 to 5 degrees Celsius this century. Making peace with nature is the defining task of the 21st century. It must be the top priority for everyone, everywhere," said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.
“The exceptional heat of 2020 is despite a La Niña event, which has a temporary cooling effect,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas. “It is remarkable that temperatures in 2020 were virtually on a par with 2016, when we saw one of the strongest El Niño warming events on record. This is a clear indication that the global signal from human-induced climate change is now as powerful as the force of nature,” said Prof. Taalas.
“The temperature ranking of individual years represent only a snapshot of a much longer-term trend. Since the 1980s each decade has been warmer than the previous one. Heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere remain at record levels and the long lifetime of carbon dioxide, the most important gas, commits the planet to future warming,” said Prof. Taalas.
Jan. 2021
European climate scientists have tallied up millions of temperature readings from last year to conclude that 2020 was tied with 2016 as the hottest year on record for the planet.
It’s the first time the global temperature has peaked without El Nino, a cyclical Pacific Ocean warm phase that typically spikes the average annual global temperature to new highs, said Freja Vamborg, a senior scientist with the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, who was lead author on its annual report for 2020.
That report shows the Earth’s surface temperature at 2.25 degrees Fahrenheit above the 1850 to 1890 pre-industrial average, and 1.8 degrees warmer than the 1981 to 2010 average that serves as a baseline against which annual temperature variations are measured.
In the past, the climate-warming effect of El Nino phases really stood out in the long-term record, Vamberg said. The 1998 “super” El Nino caused the largest annual increase in global temperatures recorded up to that time, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“If you look at the 1998 El Nino, it was really a spike, but now, we’re kind of well above that, simply due to the trend,” Vamberg said.
El Nino can warm the planet’s annual average temperature by about 0.15 degrees Celsius, so the global temperature could spike to yet another new record next time the central equatorial Pacific swings to that warm phase, said Jennifer Francis, a scientist with the Woodwell Climate Research Center in Massachusetts.
Part of 2020’s record heat can be attributed to persistent warmth in the Arctic and northern Siberia, where the annual temperature was 10.8 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than average for the year, Vamberg said.
Europe recorded its warmest year on record: 0.72 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than 2019 and 2.9 degrees warmer than the 1981 to 2010 baseline. Autumn was especially hot on the continent, running 4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the baseline for the first time ever.
The last six years were the six hottest recorded on the planet, and 2020 closed the warmest decade on record.
In the records of the Japanese Meteorological Agency, which released its annual report last week, 2020 beat out 2016 as the planet’s warmest year, running 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average. It was the fifth-warmest year on record for the U.S., according to the 2020 U.S. national climate summary released by NOAA on January 8. Its annual global climate report and other major climate studies are due in the next week or so, including those from NASA and the United Kingdom Meteorological Office. Their results are expected to be within a tenth of a degree of each other.
Each of the agencies uses the same general set of temperature readings from thousands of weather stations spread across continents and oceans, but they sometimes reach slightly different results, because they calculate the data in different ways. That’s especially true with data from polar regions, where readings are sparse.
The final numbers rarely differ by more than a few hundredths of a degree, but in a year in which the results are very close to previous readings, that can affect the ranking. Once all the figures are out, the United Nations World Meteorological Organization compiles them and releases an annual report that includes the closest thing to an official global temperature measurement. The WMO should release its report later this month.
The small differences don’t call any of the measurements into question, Vamberg said. When taken together, especially over a period of five or 10 years, they reinforce each other and show the inexorable, long-term warming trend caused by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, she said.
“I wouldn’t make a call saying one is better or different,” added Carl-Friedrich Schleussner, head of climate science with Climate Analytics and Humboldt University in Berlin. “They just reflect different ways of constructing a temperature record.”
Last year’s record or near-record reading was widely expected and forecast for months, due to a steady string of monthly records.
“What we are seeing is pretty much in line with our expectations,” he said. “If it was an El Niño year, we would expect an additional spike on top of human-made climate change.” In comparing years on a short timescale, he added, natural annual variations can still override the signal of human-caused warming.
“An individual record year is not the core message of climate science,” Schleussner said. “It will continue warming until CO2 emissions meet net zero. Any individual year record is a reminder we are still increasing the level of greenhouse gases, which means Earth will keep getting hotter.”
The dramatic impacts of 2020’s record warmth were also not unexpected. Blistering heat waves on every continent, a hyperactive Atlantic hurricane season and wildfires that raged from Australia to the Arctic have all been attributed to global warming by peer-reviewed research.
The various global annual temperature compilations help clarify the picture of a warming planet, said Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder and the University of Auckland, New Zealand.
“The consequences are clear,” Trenberth said. “More heatwaves, including marine heat waves, stronger, bigger, longer lasting hurricanes, heavier rainfalls and snowfalls and stronger droughts and wildfires.”

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