More than 70 million people have been forcibly displaced around the world because of war, conflict, and persecution, according to a new report by the UN Refugee Agency. The findings suggest that more people are displaced globally than currently live in the whole of France. This is the highest level that UNHCR has seen in its almost 70 years.
Most of the increase happened between 2012 and 2015 and was mainly driven by the Syrian conflict. But other conflicts in the Middle East region contributed to the rise, such as the conflicts in Iraq and Yemen, parts of sub-Saharan Africa, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan. The massive flow of Rohingya refugees to Bangladesh at the end of 2017 contributed to the increase.
Also in 2018, there was an increase in the number of displaced people due to internal displacement in Ethiopia and the people fleeing Venezuela.
But the figure of 70.8 million is considered conservative by the UNHCR. It claims that only a small part of people displaced by the political and economic crisis in Venezuela has been reflected in its findings. Venezuela had around four million people displaced to date, according to data from governments receiving them, making it one of the largest recent displacement crisis in recent times.
“What we are seeing in these figures is further confirmation of a longer-term rising trend in the number of people needing safety from war, conflict, and persecution,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugee Filippo Grandi.
Within the 70.8 million figure reported by UNHCR, there are three main groups:
The first group is made out of refugees or people forced to leave their home countries because of conflict, war or persecution. In 2018, the number of refugees reached around 25.9 million worldwide, 500,000 more than in 2017.
The second group is of those classified as asylum seekers - people outside their country of origin and receiving international protection, but awaiting the outcome of their claim to refugee status. At the end of 2018, about 3.5 million people were awaiting a decision on their application for asylum.
These two groups together amount to nearly 30 million displaced people worldwide. Around half of the world's asylum seekers are children, many being unaccompanied minors. They are often stuck for years in refugee camps in host countries which are unable to absorb the high numbers of incoming people.
The third and biggest group, at over 41 million, are people displaced to other areas within their own country, a category commonly referred to as Internally Displaced People (IDPs).
Where do the majority of refugees come from?
Refugees from the top ten countries of origin accounted for 82% of refugees (16.6 million) in 2018 — a figure similar to that of 2017. Just like the previous year, over two-thirds of the world's refugees came from five countries: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar, and Somalia.
Adrian Edwards from the United Nations Refugee Agency outlined how the number of displaced people continues to rise. He told our Good Morning Europe programme: “You have two decades of people forcibly displaced due to war and conflict… at the UNHCR we’ve been reporting higher and higher numbers.” He added: “Four out of five remain refugees for at least five years… and one-fifth of refugees remain so for more than 20 years.”
Watch Good Morning Europe’s report on the Refugee Crisis in the player above.
Correction: The original article stated that there were 30 million asylum seekers - that is incorrect. The 30 million figure refers to both asylum seekers and the much larger group of refugees.