The number of people fleeing wars, violence, persecution and human rights violations in 2020 rose to nearly 82.4 million, another four percent increase on top of the already record high of 79.5 million at the end of 2019.
More than two thirds of all people who fled abroad came from just five countries, namely Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Myanmar, says the latest annual Global Trends report of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.
Of the refugees, 6.7 million people were from Syria, 4 million from Venezuela, 2.6 million from Afghanistan, 2.2 million from South Sudan, and 1.1 million were from Myanmar, according to the report released on Friday in Geneva.
The report shows that by the end of 2020, there were 20.7 million refugees under UNHCR mandate, with 5.7 million Palestine refugees and 3.9 million Venezuelans displaced abroad.
Another 48 million people were internally displaced (IDPs) within their own countries.
Driven mostly by crises in Ethiopia, Sudan, countries of the Sahel, Mozambique, Yemen, Afghanistan and Colombia, the number of internally displaced people rose by more than 2.3 million.
A further 4.1 million were asylum seekers.
These numbers indicate that despite the pandemic and calls for a global ceasefire, conflicts continued to chase people from their homes, says a press release of UNHCR.
Girls and boys under the age of 18 account for 42% of all forcibly displaced people.
New UNHCR estimates show that almost one million children were born as refugees between 2018 and 2020. Many of them may remain refugees for years to come.
The report also notes that at the peak of the pandemic in 2020, over 160 countries had closed their borders, with 99 States making no exception for people seeking protection.
The UN agency has urged world leaders to step up their efforts to foster peace, stability and cooperation in order to halt and begin reversing nearly a decade-long trend of surging displacement driven by violence and persecution.
"Behind each number is a person forced from their home and a story of displacement, dispossession and suffering. They merit our attention and support not just with humanitarian aid, but in finding solutions to their plight," said Filippo Grandi, the UN high commissioner for refugees.
"While the 1951 Refugee Convention and the Global Compact on Refugees provide the legal framework and tools to respond to displacement, we need much greater political will to address conflicts and persecution that force people to flee in the first place," Grandi added.
Other key findings of the report
- 2020 is the ninth year of uninterrupted rise in forced displacement worldwide.
- Today, 1% of humanity is displaced and there are twice as many forcibly displaced people than in 2011 when the total was just under 40 million.
- The vast majority of the world's refugees - nearly nine in 10 refugees (86%) - are hosted by countries neighbouring crises areas and low- and middle-income countries.
- Least Developed Countries have provided asylum to 27% of the total.
- For the seventh year in a row, Turkey hosted the largest refugee population worldwide (3.7 million refugees), followed by Colombia (1.7 million, including Venezuelans displaced abroad), Pakistan (1.4 million), Uganda (1.4 million), and Germany (1.2 million).
- States and UNHCR collectively registered in 2020, some 1.3 million new, individual asylum applications, one million fewer than in 2019 (43% less).