Number of people forced to flee homes 'highest since records began': UN

Number of people forced to flee homes 'highest since records began': UN

Ukraine war has pushed figure for forcibly displaced people worldwide above 100M, says UN refugee agency

By Peter Kenny

GENEVA (AA) - The number of people forced to flee their homes worldwide has increased yearly over the past decade and stands at its highest since records began, the UN refugee agency said on Thursday.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said numbers have climbed every year over the past decade due to conflicts and crises.

“Ukraine has displaced between 12 and 14 million people, depending on how you count. So, the figure has exceeded 100 million,” he said at a UN press conference.

“Either the international community comes together to take action to address this human tragedy, resolve conflicts and find lasting solutions, or this terrible trend will continue.”

By the end of 2021, the number of people displaced by war, violence, persecution, and human rights abuses stood at 89.3 million, up 8% from a year earlier and well over double the figure of 10 years ago, according to the UNHCR’s annual Global Trends Report.

The Ukraine war has caused “the fastest and one of the largest forced displacement crises since World War II,” and along with “other emergencies, from Africa to Afghanistan and beyond, pushed the figure over the dramatic milestone of 100 million,” the UNHCR said.

Türkiye hosted nearly 3.8 million refugees, the largest population worldwide, followed by Uganda (1.5 million), Pakistan (1.5 million), and Germany (1.3 million).

Colombia had 1.8 million Venezuelans displaced abroad.

“We need more resources to face this crisis. And at the moment, we’re struggling a bit,” said Grandi.

- Spiraling crises

Citing the World Bank, the UNHCR said 2021 was notable for the number of conflicts that escalated and new ones that flared, with 23 countries that have a combined population of 850 million “facing medium- or high-intensity conflicts.”

Piled on these are food scarcity, inflation, and the climate crisis, “adding to people’s hardship, stretching the humanitarian response just as the funding outlook in many situations appears bleak,” read the report.

The number of refugees in 2021 rose to 27.1 million as arrivals climbed in Uganda, Chad, Sudan, and other countries.

“Most refugees were, once again, hosted by neighboring countries with few resources. The number of asylum seekers reached 4.6 million, up 11%,” read the report.

Internal displacement within countries due to conflict also saw the 15th straight annual rise last year, with the figure reaching 53.2 million.

This was driven by conflict in places such as Myanmar, Ethiopia’s Tigray, and other regions, and insurgencies in the Sahel, particularly in Burkina Faso and Chad.

UNHCR warned that the “speed and volume of displacement is still outpacing the availability of solutions for those displaced – like return, resettlement or local integration.”

- Returns on the rise

However, according to Grandi, the UN report also contains “glimmers of hope.”

The number of returns of refugees and internally displaced persons increased in 2021, climbing back “to pre-COVID-19 levels, with voluntary repatriation having surged 71%, though numbers remained modest.”

“While we’re witnessing appalling new refugee situations, and existing ones reigniting or remaining unresolved, there are also examples of countries and communities working together to pursue solutions for the displaced,” Grandi said.

“It’s happening in places – for example, the regional cooperation to repatriate Ivorians – but these important decisions need to be replicated or scaled up elsewhere.”

Additionally, although the estimated number of stateless people increased slightly in 2021, some 81,200 acquired citizenship or had it confirmed – the biggest reduction in statelessness since the start of the UNHCR’s IBelong campaign in 2014, the report said.

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