The number of people fleeing war, persecution, violence and human rights abuses in 2020 reached a record 82.4 million despite the impact of the pandemic, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
This is a four percent increase over the already record 79.5 million at the end of 2019, according to the latest UNHCR Global Trends annual report released on Friday.
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The total has doubled in a decade and more than one percent of the world’s population has now been displaced. There are twice as many violent displaced people since 2011, when the number was less than 40 million.
As people continued to cross the border, millions more were displaced to their home countries. Mainly due to crises in Ethiopia, Sudan, the Sahel, Mozambique, Yemen, Afghanistan and Colombia, the number of internally displaced persons has increased by more than 2.3 million.
Throughout 2020, some 3.2 million IDPs and just 251,000 refugees have returned home – down 40 percent and 21 percent from 2019, the UNHCR said.
Another 33,800 refugees were naturalized from their countries of asylum. The resettlement of refugees has fallen sharply. Only 34,400 refugees were resettled last year, the lowest in 20 years – as a result of the reduced number of resettlement sites and Covid-19.
By the end of 2020, there were 20.7 million refugees under the auspices of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 5.7 million Palestinian refugees and 3.9 million Venezuelans displaced abroad. Another 48 million people were displaced.
Another 4.1 million were asylum seekers. These figures show that despite the pandemic and calls for a global ceasefire, the conflict continued to drive people out of their homes, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said.
Nearly one million children were born as refugees between 2018 and 2020. Many of them may remain refugees for years to come, according to a new estimate by the UN refugee agency.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, stated: “While the 1951 Refugee Convention and the Global Refugee Convention provide the legal framework and tools to address displacement, we need much greater political will to dealing with conflicts and persecutions that force people to leave first. “
At the height of the pandemic in 2020, more than 160 countries closed their borders, with 99 states being no exception for people seeking protection.
However, with improved measures – such as medical examinations at the border, health certification or temporary quarantine on arrival, simplified registration procedures and remote interviews – more and more countries are finding ways to secure access to asylum in an effort to stem the pandemic.