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Daily Briefing: Global Forced Displacements Hit 80 million in 2020: Report

Global forced displacement surpassed 80 million at mid-year, noting that the full picture for 2020 is not yet established, a report by the UN refugee agency estimated.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) on Wednesday said preliminary figures showed more people had been forced to flee in 2020, pushing the number past 80 million.

“We are now surpassing another bleak milestone that will continue to grow unless world leaders stop wars,” UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi said in a statement.

At the beginning of this year, persecution, conflict, and human rights violations had forced some 79.5 million people from their homes, including nearly 30 million refugees – more than 1% of the world’s population, said UNHCR.

This total included 45.7 million internally displaced people (IDPs), 29.6 million refugees and others forcibly displaced outside their country, and 4.2 million asylum seekers. Existing and new conflicts and the novel coronavirus have dramatically affected their lives in 2020.

UNHCR said that despite the UN secretary-general’s urgent appeal in March for a global cease-fire while the world fights the pandemic, conflicts and persecution continued.

Violence in Syria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, Somalia, and Yemen drove new displacements in the first half of 2020. Significant new displacement has also been registered across Africa’s Central Sahel region as civilians face brutal violence, including rape and executions, said the refugee agency.

For people forced to flee, COVID-19 became an additional protection and livelihoods crisis on top of the global public health emergency. The virus has disrupted every aspect of human life and severely worsened existing challenges for the forcibly displaced and stateless.

Some of the measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 made it harder for refugees to reach safety. At the peak of the first wave of the pandemic in April, 168 countries fully or partially closed their borders, with 90 countries making no exception for people seeking asylum. Since then, and with UNHCR’s support and expertise, 111 countries have found pragmatic solutions to ensure their asylum system is fully or partially operational while ensuring necessary measures are taken to curb the spread of the virus.

Despite such measures, new asylum applications dropped by a third compared to the same period in 2019. Meanwhile, the underlying factors leading to conflicts globally remain unaddressed.

Fewer durable solutions were found for the displaced in 2020 compared to the same period in previous years. Just 822,600 displaced people returned home, most – 635,000 – were IDPs. With 102,600 voluntary repatriations in the first half of the year, refugee returns dropped by 22 per cent compared to 2019.

Resettlement travel for refugees was on temporary hold due to the COVID-19 restrictions from March to June. Consequently, only 17,400 refugees were resettled in the first six months of 2020 according to government statistics, half the figure of 2019.

Globally Displaced People in 2020- Data

Although the actual number of stateless people remains unknown, 79 countries in the world have reported 4.2 million stateless people on their territory. Turkey hosted the largest number of refugees worldwide with 3.6 million people. Colombia was the second with 1.8 million, including Venezuelans displaced abroad.

Turkey continued to host more than half of the Syrian refugees. Other countries with large Syrian refugee populations were Lebanon (884,000), Jordan (658,000), Iraq (245,000), and Egypt (130,000). Germany (562,000) and Sweden (114,000) continued to host the largest Syrian refugee populations outside the immediate region.


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