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Global action urged for refugees

By Liu Xuan | | Updated: 2021-06-18 17:31
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The international community is called on to step up efforts to foster peace, stability and cooperation in order to halt and begin reversing nearly a decadelong trend of surging displacement.

The number of displaced people in 2020 rose to nearly 82.4 million, according to an annual Global Trends report released on Friday by the United Nations Refugee Agency, or UNHCR. This is a further 4 percent increase on top of the already record-high 79.5 million at the end of 2019, making 2020 the ninth year of an uninterrupted rise in forced displacement worldwide.

Currently, about 1 percent of humanity is displaced and there are twice as many forcibly displaced people than in 2011 when the total was just under 40 million, the report said.

By the end of 2020, there were 20.7 million refugees under UNHCR mandate, and another 48 million people were internally displaced (IDPs) within their own countries. A further 4.1 million were asylum-seekers. These numbers indicated that despite the pandemic and calls for a global ceasefire, conflict continued to chase people from their homes, the report said.

Meanwhile, girls and boys under the age of 18 account for 42 percent of all forcibly displaced people. They are particularly vulnerable, especially when crises continue for years.

The refugee agency estimated that almost 1 million children were born as refugees between 2018 and 2020. Many of them may remain refugees for years to come.

While people continued to flee across borders, millions more were displaced within their own countries. The number of internally displaced people rose by more than 2.3 million, driven mostly by crises in Ethiopia, Sudan, Sahel countries, Mozambique, Yemen, Afghanistan and Colombia.

Over the course of 2020, some 3.2 million IDPs and just 251,000 refugees returned to their homes, a 40 and 21 percent drop, respectively, compared to 2019, the report showed.

However, a consequence of the reduced number of resettlement places and COVID-19, refugee resettlement registered a drastic plunge - just 34,400 refugees were resettled last year, the lowest level in 20 years.

"While the 1951 Refugee Convention and the Global Compact on Refugees provide the legal framework and tools to respond to displacement, we need much greater political will to address conflicts and persecution that force people to flee in the first place," said Filippo Grandi, UN high commissioner for refugees.

The officer called on global leaders to put aside their differences and focus on preventing and solving conflict.

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