1% of the world’s population is now forcibly displaced, UN report says

A migrant child wearing a protective face mark looks on during his arrival at the port of Piraeus near Athens, Greece, 04 May 2020. [EPA-EFE/KOSTAS TSIRONIS]

79.5 million people have had to leave their homes as a result of persecution, violence and human rights abuses, among which 4 in 10 are children, according to the annual global trends report of the UN refugee agency, published today (18 June).

1 in 97 people on the planet are now forcibly displaced compared to 1 in 159 in 2010, a growing proportion which outpaces global population growth.

Over the past decade, at least 100 million people were forced to flee their homes with only a fraction of them finding a solution, the report says.

“We are witnessing a changed reality in that forced displacement nowadays is not only vastly more widespread but is simply no longer a short-term and temporary phenomenon,” said Filippo Grandi, the UN’s refugee chief.

The vast majority of refugees and displaced people are hosted in developing countries, and more than a quarter of them found asylum in the “least developed countries.”

More than two thirds of refugees globally came from just five countries, with 6.6 million coming from Syria, followed by Venezuela (3.7 million), Afghanistan (2.7), South Sudan (2.2) and Myanmar (1.1).

Turkey hosts the largest number of displaced people (3.9 million), followed by Colombia (1.8 million) and Germany (1.5 million).

The number of asylum seekers is also rising, with 14% of all applications in the past decade filed last year. Germany received the highest number of new asylum applications in the past decade, followed by the US and France.

Despite investments to speed up asylum applications at UN and national level, the end of 2019 saw more than 4 million cases still pending.

These numbers are compounded by the scarcity of solutions. In 2019, only half a percent of the world’s refugees were resettled and as conflicts tend to drag on over longer periods of time, voluntary repatriation becomes a less viable solution, the analysis found.

Reforming the European asylum system is expected to feature among the priorities of the incoming German presidency, which takes the EU’s helm in July.

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In its draft programme presented in March, Germany advocated “re-regulating responsibilities and preventing individual states from being overburdened.”

The Commission’s soon-to-be-published proposal for a new European migration and asylum pact, however, is already stirring controversy.

Last week, seven member states sent a joint letter to the European executive in which they expressed doubts about the pact.

“We have serious reservations about the mandatory relocations of asylum applicants and migrants, in any form,” wrote the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Estonia, Slovenia and Latvia.

(Edited by Frédéric Simon)

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