Geneva: The number of people fleeing violence, persecution and conflict in 2018 has exceeded 70 million globally – the highest number in the UN refugee agency’s almost 70 years of operations.
The UNHCR’s annual Global Trends report released on Wednesday shows that almost 70.8 million people are now forcibly displaced. This is double the level recorded 20 years ago and 2.3 million people more than the previous year.
The report said that the figure of 70.8 million is conservative, in particular, as the crisis in Venezuela is still only partly reflected in this number.
In all, some 4 million Venezuelans have left their country, according to data from the governments receiving them, making this among the world’s biggest recent displacement crisis. Although the majority need international refugee protection, as of today, only around half a million have taken the step of formally applying for asylum.
“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 Refugees Filippo Grandi.
“While language around refugees and migrants is often divisive, we are also witnessing an outpouring of generosity and solidarity, especially by communities who are themselves hosting large numbers of refugees.
Within the 70.8 million figure in the Global Trends report, there are three main groups. The first is refugees or people forced to flee their country because of conflict, war or persecution. In 2018, the number of refugees reached 25.9 million worldwide, 500,000 more than in 2017. Included in this total are 5.5 million Palestine refugees.
The second group is 3.5 million asylum seekers. These are people outside their country of birth who are under international protection, but are yet to be granted refugee status.
Thirdly, there are internally displaced persons, or IDPs. These people are displaced within their country and amount to 41.3 million globally.
More than two thirds of all refugees worldwide came from Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia. Syria had a considerably higher number than any other country with 6.7 million, followed by Afghanistan with 2.7 million.
Only 92,400 refugees were resettled in 2018 — less than 7 per cent of those awaiting resettlement. The global population of forcibly displaced people has grown substantially from 43.3 million in 2009. Some 593,800 refugees were able to return home, while 62,600 became naturalized.
However, other conflicts have cropped up and continued across the globe, for example, in Iraq and Yemen in the Middle East, as well as parts of sub-Saharan Africa such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan.
There was a massive displacement of Rohingya refugees to Bangladesh at the end of 2017, after they were driven out of Myanmar’s Rakhine state during a military crackdown.
At more than 1.5 million, Ethiopians were the largest newly displaced population in 2018, 98 per cent of them internally, more than doubling the previous number.