They represent more than 1% of humanity: nearly 80 million people, a record figure, had to leave their homes to flee violence and persecution and live today far from home, according to the UN.
The latest report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) released on Thursday estimates that at the end of 2019 some 79.5 million people were refugees, asylum seekers or “uprooted” in their own country, with less and less prospects of returning to their region of origin.
“One percent of the world’s population cannot return home because of wars, persecution, human rights violations and other forms of violence,” said UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi in an interview with AFP.
“This has been a trend since 2012: the numbers are higher than the previous year,” adds Filippo Grandi, for whom it means “that there have been more conflicts, more violence”.
It also reflects “insufficient political solutions” undertaken to end the crises driving people out of their homes and preventing them from returning.
Ten years ago, the number of displaced people was 40 million, he said. “So it doubled. And we don’t see the trend slowing down. ”
The UNHCR report shows that 45.7 million people had fled to other parts of their country, 26 million were refugees living outside their borders.
Some 4.2 million were asylum seekers, in addition to 3.6 million Venezuelans who were counted separately.
“The international community is so divided, so incapable of making peace that unfortunately the situation will continue to worsen, and I very much fear that next year will be even worse than this year,” said Grandi.
The pandemic problem
In 2019 alone, UNHCR reports an additional 11 million IDPs, largely in a small number of war-torn countries.
Among them Syria, devastated by nine years of armed conflict, and which has 13.2 million internally displaced persons inside or outside the country, or one sixth of the total.
No less than 68% of all the refugees registered in the world come from five countries: Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Burma.
Clearly: “if the international community managed to find the unity, the political will and the resources to help these countries get out of the crisis and rebuild themselves, most probably we would have solved more than half of the world’s problems” relative to refugees, he says.
If the report does not mention the emergence of the pandemic of new coronavirus in the problem of displaced persons, it adds to the plight of the people concerned in a context where it is repeated that “moving has consequences for oneself and on the others”.
And the economic impact of the pandemic is dramatic in poor and developing countries.
“What we have seen dramatically increased is poverty,” the confinement does not allow many displaced people to find sources of income, he said.
Under these circumstances, and despite restrictions on mobility, countries must continue to grant asylum to those in need.
“Unfortunately people continue to flee their homes, because of the pandemic or not, they are threatened […] and they still need shelter, protection, asylum, “said the UNHCR chief.