The number of people fleeing wars, violence, persecution, and human rights violations in 2020 rose 4% from the year before to nearly 82.4 million people, the UN Refugee Agency said on Friday.
“I think this is very significant because we are talking about 2020. We are talking about the year of COVID-19, the year where we did not move, where we were confined, locked down,” UNHCR head Filippo Grandi told journalists told a press conference in Geneva.
"Yet, in spite of that, there are 3 million people more who have been compelled to flee because of war, because of discrimination, because of persecution and other forms of violence.”
The UNHCR, in its latest Global Trends report, said that by the end of 2020, there were 20.7 million refugees under the agency's mandate.
These numbers indicate that despite the pandemic and calls for a global cease-fire, conflict continued to chase people from their homes.
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It said that in 2020, Turkey continued to host the world's largest refugee population. “The Government of Turkey took important steps to include people of concern in its COVID-19 health response,” said the report.
The agency said 5.7 million Palestinians, and 3.9 million Venezuelans were displaced abroad.
48 million displaced within own countries
While people continued to flee across borders, millions more were displaced within their own countries.
Another 48 million people were internally displaced (IDPs) within their own countries, while 4.1 million were asylum-seekers.
Grandi said the overall figure of 82.4 million is the highest since the UN started counting reliably.
“It is the ninth consecutive year of increase. It is exactly double the figure of 10 years ago. So in 10 years, from 2011 to 2021, the number of people forcibly displaced worldwide has doubled. We're now in excess of 1% of humanity being forcibly displaced."
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The report also noted that at the peak of the pandemic in 2020, more than 160 countries had closed their borders, with 99 making no exception for people seeking protection.
"Yet with improved measures – such as medical screenings at borders, health certification or temporary quarantine upon arrival, simplified registration procedures and remote interviewing – more and more countries found ways to ensure access to asylum while trying to stem the spread of the pandemic," said the UNHCR.
Driven mainly through crises in Ethiopia, Sudan, Sahel countries, Mozambique, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Colombia, the number of internally displaced people rose by more than 2.3 million.