Despite the Covid-19 pandemic which has largely hampered population movements, the number of people having to leave their homes to flee persecution, violence and conflict continued to increase in 2020 and reached a new record. According to the latest report from the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), released on Friday, June 18, 82.4 million people are internally or externally displaced, a number that has doubled in ten years.
“More than three million additional people have been uprooted since the end of 2019, despite the pandemic. It is a very worrying situation. We call on world leaders to find solutions and act on the causes of the displacement of these people ”, alert Céline Schmitt, spokesperson for the UNHCR in France. In 2020, children (under 18) represented 42% of forcibly displaced people.
“This increase is due to ongoing conflicts, with people unable to return home, and new crises which are causing further displacement”, continues Céline Schmitt. Specifically, in 2020, two-thirds of the world’s displaced people – including refugees, asylum seekers and “internally uprooted” – are from five countries: Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan. South and Myanmar.
On the reception side, 73% of the displaced persons identified by the UNHCR were taken care of by neighboring countries. Some examples: Turkey, (3.7 million people); Colombia (1.7 million); Pakistan (1.4 million); Uganda (1.4 million). Only one European country stands out: Germany, with 1.2 million people hosted on its territory. According to the UNHCR report, 86% of those displaced by violence and conflict have been hosted in a developing country.
While the number of displaced people has increased consecutively for a decade, the health crisis due to Covid-19 has further aggravated the situation. The UNHCR spokesperson points to “Very important socio-economic consequences”, and especially “A sharp drop in income with a sharp increase in poverty for all those who depend on the informal economic sectors”.
One of the most worrying corollaries of the Covid-19 epidemic has been the closure of borders. At the height of the health crisis, an overwhelming majority of states no longer allowed access to their territory, leading to a drastic drop in the number of asylum requests. “Many countries had nothing planned to allow people fleeing violence and conflict to apply for international protection”, says Céline Schmitt.
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