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Forced displacement at record level, despite COVID-related closures

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The number of people fleeing wars, violence, persecution and human rights abuses rose to nearly 82.4 million last year, a further 4% increase from the already record high of 79 , 5 million, recorded at the end of 2019.

According to the flagship of the United Nations Refugee Agency Global Trends Report published on Friday, the restrictive COVID-19[female[feminine The pandemic has not slowed down forced displacement around the world and instead could have left thousands of refugees and asylum seekers stranded and vulnerable.

The new ‘one percent’

Despite COVID-related movement restrictions and calls from the international community for a global ceasefire, displacement continued to occur – and to grow. As a result, more than one percent of the world’s population – or 1 in 95 people – are now forcibly displaced. This compares to 1 in 159 in 2010.

The agency explains that while the full impact of the pandemic on wider migration and cross-border travel around the world is not yet clear, data shows that arrivals of new refugees and asylum seekers have declined sharply in the country. Most regions – about 1.5 million people less than would. were expected in circumstances unrelated to COVID, reflecting the number of people seeking international protection in 2020 who found themselves stranded.

New and old crises

According to UNHCR, several crises – some new, some long-standing, and some resurfacing after years – forced 11.2 million people to flee in 2020, up from 11.0 million in 2019.

The figure includes people who have been displaced for the first time as well as those who have been displaced several times, both within and beyond the borders of countries.

At the end of 2020, there were 20.7 million refugees under UNHCR’s mandate. 48 million more people have been internally displaced.

Driven mainly by crises in Ethiopia, Sudan, Sahel countries, Mozambique, Yemen, Afghanistan and Colombia, the number of internally displaced people has increased by more than 2.3 million.

If we consider only international displacement situations, Syria tops the list with 6.8 million people, followed by Venezuela with 4.9 million. Afghanistan and South Sudan followed with 2.8 million and 2.2 million respectively.

Turkey continued to host the largest number of refugees with just under 4 million, most of whom were Syrian refugees (92%). Colombia followed, hosting more than 1.7 million displaced Venezuelans.

Germany was home to the third largest population – nearly 1.5 million, with Syrian refugees and asylum seekers being the largest group (44%). Pakistan and Uganda round out the top 5 host countries, with around 1.4 million each.

The COVID-19 crisis has also hit hard forcibly displaced people, who have faced increased food and economic insecurity as well as challenges in accessing health and protection services.

At the height of last year, more than 160 countries had closed their borders, with 99 states making no exceptions for those seeking protection.

According to UNHCR, the dynamics of poverty, food insecurity, climate change, conflict and displacement are increasingly interconnected and mutually reinforcing, pushing more and more people to seek safety and security. .

A call to end the suffering

UNHCR urges world leaders to redouble their efforts to foster peace, stability and cooperation in order to end and begin to reverse a nearly decade-long trend of increased displacement caused by violence and persecution.

“Behind each issue hides a person driven from their home and a story of displacement, dispossession and suffering. They deserve our attention and our support not only with humanitarian aid, but also in the search for solutions to their plight ”, recalled the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.

In a statement, Grandi stressed that while the 1951 Refugee Convention and the Global Compact on Refugees provide the legal framework and tools to respond to displacement, much greater political will is needed to deal with conflict. and the persecutions that force people to flee.

“The tragedy of so many children born in exile should be reason enough to make much greater efforts to prevent and end conflict and violence,” he added.

Girls and boys under the age of 18 represent 42 percent of all forcibly displaced persons. They are particularly vulnerable, especially when crises last for years.

New UNHCR estimates show that nearly one million children were born as refugees between 2018 and 2020. Many of them could remain refugees for years to come.

Low rate of return

The agency noted that during 2020, some 3.2 million internally displaced people and only 251,000 refugees returned to their homes, a decrease of 40 and 21 percent, respectively, from 2019. Another 33,800 refugees were naturalized by their country of asylum.

Refugee resettlement has dropped drastically with just 34,400 refugees resettled, the lowest level in 20 years – a consequence of reduced resettlement places and COVID-19.

“Solutions require world leaders and those with influence to put aside their differences, end a selfish approach to politics and instead focus on conflict prevention and resolution and respect for human rights.” , urged Grandi.

The United Nations refugee agency recalled that 2020 is the ninth year of an uninterrupted increase in forced displacement around the world. There are twice as many forcibly displaced people as in 2011, when the total was just under 40 million.

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