19 June 2019

The number of people fleeing war, persecution and conflict exceeded 70 million in 2018. This is the highest level that UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency has seen in its almost 70 years.

Data from UNHCR’s annual Global Trends report, released today, shows that almost 70.8 million people are now forcibly displaced. To put this in perspective, this is double the level of 20 years ago, 2.3 million more than a year ago, and corresponds to a population between that of Thailand and Turkey.

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, according to data from governments receiving them, have left their country, making this among the world’s biggest recent displacement crises. 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. While language around refugees is often divisive, we are also witnessing an outpouring of generosity and solidarity, especially by communities who are themselves hosting large numbers of refugees," said UN High Commissioner for Refugee Filippo Grandi.

"We are also seeing unprecedented engagement by new actors including development actors, private businesses, and individuals, which not only reflects but also delivers the spirit of the Global Compact on Refugees. 

“We must build on these positive examples and redouble our solidarity with the many thousands of innocent people who are forced to flee their homes each day.”

Within the 70.8 million figure in the Global Trends report are three main groups. The first is refugees, meaning 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 who are under the care of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

The second group is asylum seekers - people outside their country of origin and receiving international protection, but awaiting the outcome of their claim to refugee status. At the end of 2018 there were 3.5 million asylum seekers globally.

The third and biggest group, at 41.3 million, is people displaced to other areas within their own country, a category commonly referred to as Internally Displaced People or IDPs.

Overall growth in displacement continued to exceed the rate at which solutions are being found for people who become displaced. With refugees, the best solution is being able to return home voluntarily, in safety and dignity. Other solutions include being integrated into the host community or being resettled to a third country. However, only 92,400 refugees were resettled in 2018, less than 7 per cent of those awaiting resettlement. Some 593,800 refugees were able to return home, while 62,600 became naturalised.

“With every refugee situation, wherever it is, however long it has been going on for, there has to be an enduring emphasis on solutions and removing obstacles to people being able to return home,” said Grandi. “This is complex work in which UNHCR is constantly engaged but which also requires all countries to come together for a common good. It is one of the great challenges of our times.”

Read the full 2018 Global Trends Report

LEARN MORE

 

Additional Information
UNHCR’s Global Trends report and an accompanying package of multi-media assets are available here

Reporting Forced Displacement – Key Definitions
UNHCR does not use the term ‘migrant’ to describe people who are forced to flee.

Refugee: A person who has fled their country and needs ‘international protection’ because of a risk of violence or persecution were they to return home. This includes people fleeing wars. The term has its roots in international legal instruments, notably the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol and the 1969 OAU Convention. You can acquire refugee status by applying for it individually, or in cases of large influx by being given it on a “prima facie” basis. Refugees cannot be returned to their home country unless it is on a strictly voluntary basis.

Asylum Seeker: A person who has applied on an individual basis for refugee status and is awaiting the result. Asylum seekers are given ‘international protection’ while their claims are being assessed, and like refugees may not be returned home unless it is on a voluntary basis.

Internally displaced person: Internally displaced people, often known by the abbreviation IDPs, are those who are forced to flee their homes to elsewhere in their own country.

Stateless person: Someone who is without a nationality of any country, and consequently lacks the human rights and access to services of those who have citizenship. It is possible to be stateless and a refugee simultaneously.

Australia for UNHCR media enquiries, please contact:

Matt Levinson | Head of Communications & Public Affairs
[email protected]

Jasmine Turvey | Media & Public Relations Officer
[email protected]

 

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