UNHCR reports highest ever number of forcibly displaced people worldwide - Refugee Council
June 18, 2020

UNHCR reports highest ever number of forcibly displaced people worldwide

The UNHCR’s annual global trends report, published today, reveals the number of people forcibly displaced worldwide has almost doubled in the past decade to 79.5 million, the highest figure on record. Forced displacement now affects more than one per cent of humanity.

80% of the world’s displaced people are located in states or territories affected by acute food insecurity and malnutrition, and 40% of displaced people are children. More than three-quarters (77%) of the world’s refugees are caught up in situations of long-term displacement, e.g. the situation in Afghanistan, now in its fifth decade.

The total number of refugees worldwide increased to 26 million at the end of 2019. More than two-thirds of these refugees originate from just five states: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia.

Worldwide, 85% of refugees are hosted in developing countries. The top five refugee hosting countries in 2019 were: Turkey (3.6 million), Pakistan (1.4 million), Uganda (1.4 million), Germany (1.1 million) and Sudan (1.1 million).

While more than a million refugees were resettled in the past decade, and 107,800 refugees were resettled in 2019 (up from 92,400 in 2018), the number of refugees in need of resettlement stands at 1.4 million. Sadly, the number of resettlement places made available by states is nowhere near meeting this need, with just one resettlement place available for every 20 refugees in need.

Maurice Wren, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council, said:

“This year’s global trends report reveals a refugee emergency, with the highest number of forcibly displaced people the world has ever seen. After fleeing atrocities in their homelands, these refugees are desperately in need of long-term, durable solutions.

While the number of forcibly displaced people has doubled in the past decade, we have not seen states respond by systematically increasing their resettlement targets. Failure to do so has grave consequences for the 1.4 million refugees in need of resettlement. Resettlement is the only chance they have to rebuild their lives and move on from the trauma they have experienced. It is a tragedy that only one in 20 refugees in need of resettlement will have this opportunity.

The UK must take a leading role in resettling refugees, and build on the good work done since 2015 to resettle 20,000 refugees in the UK through the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme. Across the UK, many of our cities, towns and neighbourhoods have become beacons of refugee protection, supporting people to live lives free of fear and violence, and building stronger, more resilient, communities as they do so. We call on the government to embody this national spirit of welcome and empathy by boldly doubling the number of refugees we resettle each year to 10,000, and by acknowledging that family reunion is essential to effective integration.

As the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi notes, displacement is no longer a short-term or temporary phenomenon, with 77% of refugees worldwide now caught up in situations of long-term displacement.

Now, more than ever, the pain of family separation is felt acutely by refugees whose families have been torn apart by unjust restrictions on family reunion. The UK must act to expand the family reunion rules and enable refugees to be reunited with their family members.  It simply cannot be right that, while refugee parents can bring their children to the UK, refugee children do not have the same rights to be reunited with their parents or siblings, despite clear evidence of the harm caused by such enforced separation. This is inhumane. The Home Secretary must change the rules on family reunion as a matter of urgency.”