1% of humanity now displaced after biggest refugee rise, says UN

More than 30 million children are currently displaced

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One per cent of the world's population were displaced from their homes by the end of 2019, the UN refugee agency said on Thursday as they called on countries to do more to help those people get home or build a new life.

The agency's annual Global Trends Forced Displacement report, released ahead of World Refugee Day on Saturday, said a total of 79.5 million people were displaced at the end of 2019, an almost two-fold increase since 2010. The group estimates 38 to 43 per cent of these are children, tens of thousands of whom are unaccompanied.

The total number is up with 11 million "newly displaced" people from 70.8 million displaced by the end of 2018.

More than half of those now displaced, 45.7 million people, had fled to other areas of their own countries. The rest were people displaced elsewhere, 4.2 million of whom are awaiting the outcome of asylum requests, while 29.6 million are refugees and others forcibly displaced outside their country.

The new tally of internally displaced people (IDPs) and refugees has increased by 10 million in just a year. The surge in numbers can be attributed to conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Sahel, Yemen and Syria and a better accounting of Venezuelans outside of their country.

Displaced people by country of origin. UNHCR 

Refugees, asylum seekers and IDPs from Syria’s nine-year war make up a sixth of the total number at 13.2 million people, the group estimated.

Conflicts keeping refugees from their homes are also lasting longer. In the 1990s about 1.5 million refugees were able to return home each year, compared with 385,000 last year.

“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 High Commissioner for Refugees.

“People cannot be expected to live in a state of upheaval for years on end, without a chance of going home, nor a hope of building a future where they are. We need a fundamentally new and more accepting attitude towards all who flee, coupled with a much more determined drive to unlock conflicts that go on for years and that are at the root of such immense suffering.”

Despite rhetoric from right-wing groups in European nations and the US on high intake of asylum seekers and refugees, only Germany made the top five host countries in 2019 with 1.1 million. Turkey hosted the largest number of refugees worldwide, with 3.6 million people.

Europe registered 9.2 million asylum claims over the past decade, the Americas 3.4 million and the Middle East and North Africa region about 633,000 individual asylum applications.

In terms of refugees in comparison to population, the small island nation of Aruba was found to host the most displaced people per 1,000 residents, mostly from Venezuela, only 29 kilometres away by sea. Refugees account for one-sixth of the population there.

In Lebanon, which hosts a huge number of Palestinian and Syrian refugees, one in every seven people in the country is a refugee.

But as displaced population continues to climb, little is being done to find sustainable, lasting solutions, the agency said. Only half a per cent of the world’s refugees were resettled in 2019 and only 317,200 refugees returned to their home countries, mostly to South Sudan, Syria and the Central African Republic.