The UNHCR said on Friday that despite the closing of borders and travel restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic, the number of people who had fled war, violence and persecution rose again in 2020 to more than 82 million.
The UN refugee commissioner Filippo Grandi, said the number of people forced to flee their homes surged by 4 percent from 79.5 million at the end of 2019 to about 82.4 million at the end of last year, a record high.
The numbers of refugees and internally displaced people grew despite travel restrictions in more than 160 countries at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the UNHCR said in its annual report.
“We’re talking about the year of Covid-19 – the year where we didn’t move where we were confined, locked down,” Grandi told reporters in New York this week before the report’s release.
“In spite of that, there are three million more people who have been compelled to flee because of war, because of discrimination, because of persecution and other forms of violence.”
By the end of 2020, UNHCR counted 20.7 million refugees globally, 4.1 million asylum seekers, 5.7 million Palestinian refugees, 3.9 million Venezuelans displaced abroad and 48 million people uprooted within their own borders.
This represents a doubling of the number of people forcibly displaced over the past decade, Grandi said. He stated that this means “one percent of humanity” has had to flee their homes.
“New conflicts have emerged and all conflicts continue to be unresolved. Think of Afghanistan, of Somalia, of Tigray. Think of displacement in the Sahara that has dramatically increased.”
Syria remains the world’s top source for refugees, with 6.7 million Syrians having fled their homeland.
Also in the top five were Venezuela (4 million refugees), Afghanistan (2.6 million), South Sudan (2 million) and Myanmar (1.1 million).
Many of those uprooted are children. Girls and boys aged under 18 make up 42 percent of those forcibly displaced around the world, and as many as one million children were born as refugees between 2018 and 2020, Grandi said.