The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has said the global number of forcibly displaced people has passed 100 million for the first time, describing it as a “staggering milestone”.
The UN high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi, said the grim new statistic should act as a wake-up call for the international community and that more action is needed internationally to address the root causes of forced displacement around the world.
Officials said that the number of people forced to flee conflict, violence, human rights violations and persecution had risen to an unprecedented level due to the war in Ukraine along with other deadly conflicts.
“One hundred million is a stark figure – sobering and alarming in equal measure,” said Grandi. “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 figure hit 90 million at the end of 2021, propelled by a range of conflicts including in Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Myanmar and Nigeria.
Eight million Ukrainian people have been displaced within their home country as a result of the war, along with more than six million refugee movements registered from Ukraine.
“The international response to people fleeing war in Ukraine has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Grandi. “Compassion is alive and we need similar mobilisation for all crises around the world. But ultimately humanitarian aid is a palliative, not a cure. 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 or exile.”
The term “displaced person” was first used during the second world war, in which more than 40 million people were forcibly displaced.
A report from the House of Lords library in December 2021 cites UNHCR statistics that the number of people forcibly displaced globally exceeded 84 million by mid-2021. This was an increase from the estimated 82.4 million at the end of 2020. Armed conflicts, violence and human rights violations were leading causes. The report also noted that the Covid-19 pandemic, disasters, extreme weather, and the other effects of climate breakdown had created additional challenges for displaced people.
UNHCR reported that, by the end of June 2021, the number of refugees under its mandate had surpassed 20.8 million, an increase of 172,000 on the end of 2020. More than half of those who were granted international protection were from five countries – Central African Republic (71,800), South Sudan (61,700), Syria (38,800), Afghanistan (25,200) and Nigeria (20,300).
Syria continued to account for the world’s largest refugee population. Venezuelans were the second largest group and Afghans made up the third largest group.
The three countries hosting the most displaced people were Turkey with 3,696,800, Colombia with 1,743,900 and Uganda with 1,475,300.
On 16 June UNHCR will release its annual Global Trends report outlining a full set of global, regional and national data for 2021 along with more limited updates to April 2022.