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82 million people on the run at the start of the year - VG

82 million people on the run at the start of the year – VG

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 5.9 million Palestinians live as refugees. This little boy looks at the damage after an Israeli air strike on Jabalia camp in the Gaza Strip last month. Photo: AP/NTB

At the turn of the year, more than 82 million people fled war, violence, and persecution, and another dismal record was set.


The number of people forced to migrate in search of security has increased every year over the past nine years.

At the turn of the year, there were nearly 82.4 million fugitives, an increase of nearly 3 million from the previous year, according to the Annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

20.7 million refugees abroad were registered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and Turkey was by far the country with the largest number of refugees, 3.7 million.

In Colombia, 1.7 million refugees were living at the end of the year, and in both Pakistan and Uganda, 1.4 million were living. Germany hosted 1.2 million refugees.

6.7 million Syrians and 5.9 million Palestinians lived in exile last year, as did nearly 4 million Venezuelans. 2.6 million Afghans have also fled, as well as 2.2 million from South Sudan and 1.1 million from Myanmar.

This young girl is a fugitive in her native Brazil and is now raised in a camp in Itaguay. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 42 percent of all refugees in the world are under the age of 18. Photo: AP/NTB


48 million people have also been displaced in their own country, 8.3 million in Colombia alone and 6.7 million in Syria. In Congo, the number of internally displaced people reached 5.2 million, Yemen 4 million, Somalia 3 million, Afghanistan 2.9 million, Ethiopia 2.7 million, and Nigeria and Sudan 2.6 million.

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– Behind each number there is a person forced to flee from home and a story of displacement and suffering. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, says they deserve our attention and support, not only for humanitarian aid, but also for a solution to their situation.

He called for increased political will and efforts to end the many conflicts and persecutions that are forcing people to flee.

Born on the run

42 percent of all refugees are boys and girls under the age of 18. They are particularly vulnerable, UNHCR says, especially when the crises that forced them to migrate last for years.

Nearly a million babies were born to runaway parents last year, and many of them will also have to grow up on the run.

This tragedy, with so many children being born as refugees, should be a good enough reason to do more to prevent and end violence and conflict, says Grandi.

160 countries closed borders at the height of the coronavirus pandemic last year, 99 of them also to asylum seekers, no matter what desperate conditions they fled from. These men are in a refugee camp in Vathy, on the Greek island of Samos. Photo: AP/NTB

closed borders

The coronavirus pandemic has made matters worse for the world’s refugees, and 160 countries closed their borders last year when the pandemic was at its worst.

UNHCR registered 4.1 million asylum seekers by the end of 2020, but 99 countries made no exceptions for them last year, no matter what desperate situation they may have fled.

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Since then, more and more countries have changed practices, introducing border testing, vaccine certification and temporary quarantine on arrival.

The number of refugees in the world has risen steadily over the past nine years, and the number of refugees who took the opportunity to return home fell sharply last year. This woman and her children live in the Karatibi refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesvos. Photo: AP/NTB

Few have returned home

Statistics on the number of refugees and IDPs who could return home in 2020 are discouraging reading.

Only 251,000 refugees found it safe to return, down 21 percent from the previous year. 3.2 million displaced people took advantage of the opportunity to return home, but there was a 40 percent decrease from the previous year, the report from UNHCR showed.

33,800 nationalities were granted in the countries in which they applied for asylum, while 34,400 were transferred to another country compared to their asylum applications. It was the lowest number in 20 years, with the epidemic mostly to blame.

“Solutions require that world leaders and those in power put inequality, put an end to selfishness in politics and focus instead on avoiding conflict, resolving conflicts and ensuring respect for human rights,” Grandi says.