World Refugee Day: June 20th 2021
10 of the most important refugee situations you should know about
The UNHCR estimates that as of mid-2020, there were 80 million people displaced across the globe, more than half of whom are internally displaced (IDPs). 86% of displaced people are hosted in developing countries.
In March of last year the UN Secretary-General called for a ‘global ceasefire’ to address the pandemic, however political crises and conflict have of course continued. COVID-19 may have temporarily led to a reduction in official numbers of asylum seekers due to restriction of movement, but this has not reduced the rate of forced displacement. It is clear that many people have had to take more risks as they flee and official statistics may be less accurate.
A vulnerable group, refugees have suffered disproportionately during the COVID-19 pandemic. Often left out of socio-economic support policies, many are struggling to pay for basic necessities and access healthcare and education.
416 600 first-time asylum seekers applied for international protection in the Member States of the EU in 2020. The majority of these applicants come from a small number of countries: Syria, Afghanistan, Venezuela and Colombia.
It’s probably not a surprise that Syrian people make up the majority of international refugees with 6.6 million forcibly displaced by mid 2020. The largest population is in Turkey, where approximately 3.6 million reside. An estimated 6.2 million are displaced within Syria.
Syrian refugees in a camp in Suruc, Turkey
Severe political and economic crises have hit Venezuela in recent years causing high unemployment and extreme difficulty accessing food, medicine and other basic necessities. There have been several waves of forced migration. An estimated 4.6 million Venezuelans are displaced within latin America and the Caribbean, and another 800,000 have moved further afield.
Caracas, Venezuela, protesters demonstrate against the Maduro government
The situation in Afghanistan has created the world’s most protracted refugee crisis, with the Afghan refugee population estimated at 2.7 million (2.2 million of whom reside in Iran and Pakistan). Years of instability, insecurity and lack of opportunity have led to this forced migration. Since 2002, nearly 5.3 million Afghan refugees have returned to Afghanistan under UNHCR’s facilitated Voluntary Repatriation programme.
Afghan refugees in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovinia, camping near the main railway station
The largest refugee crisis in Africa, there are an estimated 4.3 million displaced people from South Sudan, including IDPs and refugees/asylum seekers. More than half reside in Uganda and Sudan. 63% are under 18. The majority are living in camps. Only 2 years after the country was founded, violence broke out in 2013 causing worsening poverty and insecurity. Among displaced people there is a high incidence of survivors of sexual assault and unaccompanied minors
Juba, South Sudan. Tents at a Salesian camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Over the last few years, the number of Somali refugees around the world has actually been decreasing. There are now thought to be 905,000 Somali refugees worldwide. Somali refugees have been forced to leave their country as a result of drought, livestock deaths as well as the long-standing armed conflict. Most have fled to Yemen, Ethiopia and Kenya, with a further 2.6 million refugees displaced internally within Somalia.
Somalia /Baidoa- A group of refugee waiting aid distribution during deadly drought in Somalia
The democratic republic of Congo is one of the largest sources of refugees, as well as one of the largest host countries for refugees. 4.5 million Congolese are internally displaced, with a further 807,000 Congolese having fled outside of the country. This is primarily due to violence in various regions in the east of the country. Refugees flee to Zambia, Angola and other neighbouring countries
Bulengo, Democratic Republic of Congo. IDP Refugee Camp
Sudan is a significant host country for refugees (4th largest in the world), as well as the 6th largest cause of forced migration. Numbers of people forced to leave Sudan are increasing, with nearly 750,000 having left last year. Ongoing violence as well as drought and famine are again the main causes.
El Qadarif, Sudan - An Ethiopian women is cooking her meal in Um Rakuba refugee camp in Sudan
The population of Eritrea is small, but over 10% now live as refugees (just over 500,000) due to terrible living conditions, human rights violations and compulsory and often indefinite military service. Many Eritreans had fled to the Tigray region, where refugee camps have now been cut off from food and aid since conflict began in the region in November 2020.
Central street, Asmara, Eritrea
Since 1948, refugees have been forced to flee from Palestine. Just last month in May 2021, an estimated 38,000 Palestinians in the Gaza strip were internally displaced as they fled from Israeli airstrikes. Those living in East Jerusalem face forced evictions. Currently, there are people living in 58 different refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank
Smoke rises after Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City, the Gaza Strip, Palestine, Wednesday, May 12, 2021
Over 1 million Rohingya Muslims have been forcibly displaced from Myanmar since the 1990s due to violence. In 2017, violence escalated, and nearly 750,000 have been forced to leave since then. There are still about 860,000 Rohingya living in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Other neighbouring countries host up to 150,000 people, whilst a further 600,000 people have been internally displaced within Myanmar.
Rohingya refugees walk through a rice paddy, Cox's Bazar