UN: More than 100 million people forcibly displaced in the world

Figure combines refugees, asylum seekers, and nearly 60 million people displaced inside their own countries.

A boy evacuated from Mariupol's Azovstal.
A boy evacuated from Ukraine's Mariupol city arrives at a registration area for internally displaced people in Zaporizhzhia on May 3 [Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP]

More than 100 million people have been driven from their homes around the world, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says, citing new data about those escaping violence, conflict, persecution and human rights violations.

The war in Ukraine has been one of the factors propelling millions of people to flee, UNHCR said on Monday, adding protracted conflict in places such as Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) were also behind the high numbers.

“It’s a record that should never have been set,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi in a statement. “This must serve as a wake-up call to resolve and prevent destructive conflicts, end persecution, and address the underlying causes that force innocent people to flee their homes.”

The 100 million figure amounts to more than 1 percent of the global population. Only 13 countries have a bigger population than the number of forcibly displaced people in the world.

In 2012, the figure stood at 41 million while in 2019 it reached 79.5 million.

In 2020, more than 82 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced with the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating some pre-existing drivers.

The UNHCR data includes refugees, asylum seekers, and those displaced within their own countries. Last week, a humanitarian body said internally displaced people reached a record of nearly 60 million people by the end of last year.

The number of forcibly displaced people rose towards 90 million by the end of 2021, spurred by violence in Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, DRC, Ethiopia, Myanmar, and Nigeria, UNHCR said.

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 and since then more than eight million people have been displaced within the country, while more than six million refugees fled across the borders.

Grandi urged action to address the causes of displacement, saying humanitarian aid was only treating the consequences.

“To reverse this trend, the only answer is peace and stability so that innocent people are not forced to gamble between acute danger at home or precarious flight and exile,” he added.

UNHCR will provide the full data on forced displacement in 2021 in its annual Global Trends Report, due for release on June 16.

‘Unprecedented human suffering’

A joint report last week by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said about 38 million new internal displacements were reported in 2021. Some of those were by people forced to flee multiple times during the year.

The figure marks the second-highest annual number of new internal displacements in a decade after 2020, which saw record-breaking movement because of a string of natural disasters.

Last year, new internal displacements specifically from conflict surged to 14.4 million – marking a 50-percent jump from 2020, the report showed.

“Today’s sobering 100 million displacement figure is indisputable proof that global leaders are failing the world’s most vulnerable people on a scale never before seen,” NRC Secretary-General Jan Egeland said in a statement.

“We are witnessing an unprecedented plague of human suffering.”

He said the aid system would not be able to support 100 million people in need without more resources.

“It is twice the number of people compared to a decade ago, without a doubling of funding to match it,” Egeland said.

Natural disasters continued to account for most new internal displacement, spurring 23.7 million such movements in 2021.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies