The pandemic over the past year has diverted attention from those fleeing war, famine, violence, persecution and environmental disasters. Sometimes it has also served as a welcome argument in the global north to seal the borders even more tightly. But it has not alleviated the horror, on the contrary: the number of those who have to flee all over the world rose to another record high in 2020.
According to the latest report by the UN refugee agency UNHCR, 82.4 million people are currently either expelled from their homeland in their own country, fled to neighboring countries or have sought refuge further away. This is an increase of four percent compared to the previous year 2019 and, according to UN data, the highest value since there were even data on refugees.
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This means that the number of refugees has doubled within just a decade: In 2010, “only” 41 million people were on the run around the world, around one percent of the world’s population. The refugee agency published the numbers for 2020 this Friday.
More refugees, but fewer recordings
According to this, 86 percent of those forcibly displaced are currently not being taken in in the rich north of the world, but in developing countries. 73 percent of the refugees only make it to neighboring countries. Turkey is the country that is home to the most people in the world, 3.7 million people, mostly from Syria, where civil war has been raging for a decade. Colombia, Pakistan and Uganda follow. With 1.2 million refugees admitted, Germany is the first industrial country in the series, in 5th place.
More than two thirds, 68 percent of the refugees, come from just five countries. Again at the top is Syria with 6.7 million internally displaced persons and people who were able to save themselves in neighboring countries or across the sea. It is followed by four million Venezuelans, who had to leave their once-rich oil country because of persecution and hunger, followed by Afghanistan, South Sudan and Myanmar.
Despite this further increase in the number of refugees, the number of those who managed to flee has “fallen massively”, as the report says. The full extent of the pandemic is not yet known, but the available data showed that 1.5 million fewer people reached a saving country than would have been expected without Covid-19, writes UNHCR.
Covid-19 will raise extreme poverty to historic levels
Last year, for example, the UN was only able to “resettle” 34,400 people, that is, select them for accommodation in states that are ready to receive them and then organize them. That was only a third of the already low number of the previous year (107,800 at the time).
UNHCR sees the reasons for the situation in the past year in “continued wars, extreme weather conditions and the economic consequences of Covid-19, which have further exacerbated existing crises”. And the prospects for the current year are equally worrying, the report says. The authors quote the World Bank. She expects that “the number of people thrown into extreme poverty by Covid-19 will rise to 119 to 124 million, an unprecedented level”.