The exodus from Ukraine triggers the number of displaced people in the world to exceed 100 million | International


The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) predicted last year that the world was poised to surpass the 100 million mark as refugees in other countries or internally displaced. The UN agency took it for granted, but wondered when that figure would be reached, which he defines as “a dramatic milestone.” The response has come earlier than expected and is reflected in the 2022 edition of the UNHCR annual report, released this Thursday. The text states that, in the first months of this year, after the exodus caused by the war in Ukraine, the world has exceeded that threshold of 100 million people -one in every 78 inhabitants of the planet-, forced to leave their home.

The diaspora of almost five million people from Ukraine is not the only reason that this number has been exceeded. The 48-page report Global Trends in Forced Displacement – relating to 2021, but also mentioning events from 2022 such as the war in Ukraine – reveals a “worrying upward trend” over the last 10 years in the number of people forced to flee due to “persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations or events that seriously disturb public order”. Last year, 89.3 million people were displaced by one or several of these forms of violence. To this was added, already in 2022, the Ukrainian exodus and new displacements “especially in Burkina Faso and Myanmar”, former Burma, which have ended up causing the figure of 100 million to have been reached.

“Every year for the last decade, the numbers [de población desplazada forzosamente] they have increased,” says the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, in a press release. “Either the international community mobilizes to respond to this human tragedy, end conflicts and achieve lasting solutions, or this trend will continue,” he lamented.

The data in the report confirm the warning of the head of the United Nations agency. The 89.3 million refugees and displaced persons in 2021, the text emphasizes, “represent more than double the 42.7 million people who remained displaced at the end of 2012.” The figures for the displaced population increased by 8% last year, “almost seven million people, in just 12 months.” Of those almost 90 million people, 27.1 million are refugees; 53.2 million, internally displaced within their countries; 4.6 million, asylum seekers and 4.4 million, what the UN defines as “Venezuelans abroad”, that is, forcibly displaced persons of that nationality to other countries, but who have not requested international protection despite meeting in many cases the requirements for it. These data, relative to 2021, do not include the numbers of refugees or displaced persons from Ukraine, whose exodus already took place in 2022.

The reasons that led so many millions of people to leave everything behind are diverse, but one of them stands out: violence. The UNHCR document underlines that 2021 “was characterized by the increase in the number of conflicts that intensified and the appearance of new ones.” According to the World Bank, 23 countries, with a total population of 850 million people, were the scene of conflicts of medium or high intensity last year.

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Malian refugees wait outside a UNHCR registration center at the M’Berra refugee camp in Bassikonou, southeastern Mauritania, on the 7th.GUY PETERSON (AFP)

In addition to violence in its various forms – wars, human rights violations, riots – “food shortages, inflation and the climate crisis are aggravating the difficulties of the population,” emphasizes the United Nations body.

Low- and middle-income countries

The countries of origin of 69% of the refugees are only five: Syria (with 6.8 million), Venezuela (4.6 million, a figure that includes Venezuelans recognized as refugees and those that the UN includes in the category “Venezuelans in abroad”), Afghanistan (2.7 million), South Sudan (2.4 million) and Myanmar (1.2 million).

Solidarity and willingness to receive people in need of international protection is not shared equally between high-income countries and those lagging behind in terms of development. The majority (83%) of the more than 27 million refugees worldwide have been hosted by low- and middle-income countries, and of these, 27% have found refuge in states that are among the least advanced. In 72% of the cases, these are neighboring countries.

The list of States with the most refugees in 2021 confirms this. It is headed by Turkey, with nearly 3.8 million, followed by Uganda (1.5 million), Pakistan (1.5 million) and, as the only developed and European country in this list, Germany (1.3 million). The case of Colombia is special. This country alone has welcomed 1.8 million Venezuelans displaced abroad, including refugees and migrants. Lebanon, for its part, is the country that hosts the most refugees in relation to its population (1 in 8), followed by Jordan (1 in 14) and Turkey (1 in 23).

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