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Global displacement hits 110 million – UNHCR report

15 June 20230 comments

A record 110 million people are now displaced across the globe thanks to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, conflicts in Syria and Sudan as well as climate-fuelled disasters and crises, a new report says.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR has released its annual ‘Global Trends in Forced Displacement 2022’ that looks at the effect on human displacement of war, persecution, violence, human rights abuses and other natural disasters.

The report says the upward trend of forced displacement comes as humanitarian response plans and budgets remain underfunded and the right to asylum is also “under threat” in some places,

It says a rising number of compounding factors have made it even harder to provide protection to those most in need.

“The number of people forcibly displaced by persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations and events seriously disturbing public order grew by 21 per cent standing at an estimated 108.4 million at the end of the year,’ the report says.

“More than one in 74 people worldwide remained forcibly displaced as a result,
almost 90 per cent of them in low- and middle-income countries. The end-year total represents an increase of 19 million compared to the end of 2021 – more than the populations of Ecuador, the Netherlands (Kingdom of the) or Somalia.

“It is also the largest ever increase between years according to UNHCR’s statistics on forced displacement. Over half of the increase was due to record numbers of
refugees, asylum-seekers and other people in need of international protection forced to flee during 2022,” the report says.

The global total includes 62.5 million internally displaced people, 35.3 million refugees, 5.4 million asylum seekers and 5.2 million others who are in need of international protection, per the report.

The upward trend has shown no sign of slowing this year. As of May, UNHCR estimated that the number of forcibly displaced people has already climbed to 110 million, largely due to the conflict in Sudan.

About 52 per cent of refugees and other people in need of international protection came from just three countries: Syria (6.5 million), Ukraine (5.7 million) and Afghanistan (5.7 million).

Women and children remain disproportionately affected by violence and disasters. The UN estimates 41 per cent of all refugees at the end of last year were children. About 51 per cent were women and girls.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was the “top driver of displacement” in 2022, with the exodus from Ukraine representing the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since WWII, the report says.

Protracted conflicts and crises in Syria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Venezuela, Sudan, Ethiopia and elsewhere also forced people from their homes.

Climate change-fuelled natural disasters are also increasingly pushing people to flee, the UNHCR says.

“It’s clear that the climate crisis is driving displacement,” the report says.

It cites nations such as Pakistan, which suffered deadly floods last year, and Somalia, where a prolonged drought has worsened a hunger crisis.

“Climate change is also making life a lot harder for people who have already been forced to flee,” the report says.

More than 70 per cent of the world’s refugees and displaced people come from some of the most climate-vulnerable countries, it says.

Around 76 per cent of refugees and other people in need of international protection were hosted by low- and middle-income nations, the report says.

Countries hosting the most included Turkey (3.6 million), Iran (3.4 million), Colombia (2.5 million), Germany (2.1 million) and Pakistan (1.7 million).

At the same time, there were 2.6 million new asylum claims in 2022, with the US receiving the most.

The high number of new claims comes amid as nations across the globe are cracking down asylum.

“The fundamental right to seek asylum is under threat in some places. The need for asylum is greater than ever, but you have situations where expulsions, pushbacks, externalisation are threatening the international asylum system and setting a dangerous precedent,” the report says.

“These figures show us that some people are far too quick to rush to conflict, and way too slow to find solutions. The consequence is devastation, displacement, and anguish for each of the millions of people forcibly uprooted from their homes,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said.  

He said the report was “quite an indictment on the state of our world. We are constantly confronted with emergencies,” he said.

The report also contends that last year exposed the unequal treatment of different refugee groups.

It says nations, especially in Europe, have been lauded for welcoming Ukrainian refugees with open arms, but some of those same countries have also been criticised for closing their borders to displaced people from other parts of the world.