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Forced Displacement At Record Level, Despite COVID Shutdowns: UNHCR

The number of people fleeing wars, violence,
persecution, and human rights violations, rose last year to
nearly 82.4 million people, a further four percent increase
on top of the already record-high of 79.5 million, recorded
at the end of 2019.

According to the UN
Refugee Agency flagship Global
Trends Report
published on Friday, the restrictive COVID-19 pandemic
did not slow forced displacement around the world, and
instead could have left thousands of refugees and asylum
seekers stranded and vulnerable.

The new ‘one

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

agency explains that while the full impact of the pandemic
on wider cross-border migration and displacement globally is
not yet clear, data shows that arrivals of new refugees and
asylum-seekers were sharply down in most regions – about
1.5 million fewer people than would have been expected in
non-COVID circumstances, reflecting how many of those
seeking international protection in 2020 became

and old crises

According to UNHCR, several crises –
some new, some longstanding and some resurfacing after years
– forced 11.2 million people to flee in 2020, compared to
11.0 million in 2019.

The figure includes people
displaced for the first time as well as people displaced
repeatedly, both within and beyond countries’

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

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.

When considering only
international displacement situations, Syria topped the list
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 just under 4 million, most
of whom were Syrian refugees (92%). Colombia followed,
hosting over 1.7 million displaced

Germany hosted the third-largest
population – 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.

The COVID-19 crisis also hit the
forcibly displaced hard, who faced increased food and
economic insecurity as well as challenges to access health
and protection services.

At the peak of the last year,
over 160 countries had closed their borders, with 99 States
making no exception for people seeking

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

A call to end the

UNHCR 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

“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”, reminded the UN High Commissioner for Refugees,
Filippo Grandi.

In a statement, Mr. Grandi underscored
that while the 1951 Refugee Convention and the Global
Compact on Refugees provide the legal framework and tools to
respond to displacement, a much greater political will is
needed to address conflicts and persecution that force
people to flee.

“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,”
he added.

Girls and boys under the age of 18 account
for 42 percent of all forcibly displaced. They are
particularly vulnerable, especially when crises continue for

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

Low rate of return

The agency emphasized
that over the course of 2020, some 3.2 million internally
displaced and just 251,000 refugees returned to their homes
–a 40 and 21 percent drop, respectively, compared to 2019.
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.

“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,” urged

The UN Refugee agency reminded that 2020 is
the ninth year of uninterrupted rise in forced displacement
worldwide. There are twice as many forcibly displaced people
than in 2011 when the total was just under 40

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