The number of people who have been forced to flee their homes due to war, conflict and persecution has soared to over 70 million – the highest number seen by the UNHCR in nearly 70 years.
In its Global Trends 2018 report, out today, the UNHCR reports that close to 70.8 million people are currently being forcibly displaced. Very worryingly this is twice the level it was 20 years ago and well over 2 million more than it was a year ago.
The agency highlights that the figure of 70.8 million is conservative, in particular given the fact that the crisis in Venezuela, among the world’s biggest recent displacement crises, is still only partly reflected in this number. Though 4 million Venezuelans have left their country, and the majority need international refugee protection, only around half a million have taken the step of formally applying for asylum.
Of the 70.8 million, 25.9 million are refugees – people forced to flee their country because of conflict, war or persecution – and 3.5 million are people seeking asylum – people outside their country of origin and receiving international protection, but awaiting the outcome of their claim to refugee status. The remaining 41.3 million are people displaced to other areas within their own country, a category often referred to as Internally Displaced People or IDPs.
The agency also highlights that, tragically, in 2018 every second refugee was a child, with many (111,000) being entirely alone and without their families. Uganda, for example, reported 2,800 refugee children aged five or below alone or separated from their families.
Maurice Wren, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council, said:
“Today’s news makes for desperately sad reading – with the numbers of people in desperate need of safety and protection only getting higher. That so many of these refugees are lone children who have been torn apart from their families because of conflict and violence, is truly appalling.
“We should temper our sadness though with the demand that the UK could and should be doing more to support the world’s most vulnerable people. We welcome the Government’s commitment this week to maintain a substantial refugee resettlement programme, but in the face of such evident need, we urge Ministers to be bolder and go further.
We want to see our Government developing more complementary pathways to safety, including an expansion of family reunion routes. We urge the Home Secretary to help refugee families reunite by changing the restrictive rules that keep refugees in the UK apart from those they love.”