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.
World Refugee Day
Every year on June 20th, UNHCR commemorates World Refugee Day honoring the resilience and courage of millions of people who have been forced to flee war, persecution and violence.
As part of this year’s commemoration, UNHCR Philippines will host a food travelogue featuring locales, stories, and recipes from refugees, internally displaced communities, and persons at risk of statelessness. “Flavors of Home, Flavors of Hope” is an online showcase that explores the Filipino heritage of compassion and will take viewers on a virtual tour of places and phases in the Philippines’ rich history of welcoming refugees. The show will premiere on UNHCR Philippines’ Facebook page on Sunday, 20th June, at 4:00 pm, and will be hosted by UNHCR Philippines Goodwill Ambassador and broadcast journalist Atom Araullo.
Among the highlights of the show is a special tour of Viet Ville, which used to be home to more than 2,000 Vietnamese refugees who came to the Philippines between 1975 and 1992, bringing with them culinary traditions and specialties like pho. “Flavors of Home, Flavors of Hope” will also showcase the story of The Café Mediterranean, a restaurant that supports Syrian refugees through UNHCR, as well as three restaurants in Mega Manila that are run by Syrian and Pakistani refugees.
These personal accounts are a testament to both the resilience of refugees, and the profound generosity and humanity of the Filipino people, who have welcomed those who are forcibly displaced with open doors and open hearts. Only by working together can we recover from the challenges we are currently faced with – the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate emergency, and recurring conflict.
This World Refugee Day, we call on individuals, communities and governments to demonstrate the power of inclusion, compassion, and humanity for those who are forced to flee. Let us help each other heal, learn, and shine – without forgetting the most vulnerable among us. TOGETHER, WE CAN ACHIEVE ANYTHING.
UNHCR 2020 Global Trends Report – key data:
Additional information / supporting multimedia materials:
UNHCR’s Global Trends report and an accompanying package of multimedia assets are available on our media page. The report is subject to a worldwide embargo of no use before 0500 GMT on 18 June 2021.
UNHCR’s Global Trends report is released in parallel with its annual Global Report, which reports on UNHCR programmes and activities to address the needs of all who are forced to flee, as well as the world’s known stateless populations.
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