19 June 2019 - Last year saw a record number of refugees worldwide. More than 70 million people were counted as displaced from their homes because of war, hunger, violence, persecution, disease and poverty, the UN said today.
In its annual global trends report, which was released a day before World Refuge Day (20 June), the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) reports that half of all officially registered asylum seekers are minors.
The report lists 41.3 million internally displaced people (IDPs), 25.9 million refugees, and 3.5 million asylum seekers -- those awaiting a decision on their bid for official refugee protection.
To understand the extent of the emergency, which Pope Francis mentioned last weekend during his visit to the earthquake victims in Camerino (Italy), we must consider that ten years ago the number of displaced people was "only" 43 million.
Overall, the number of IDPs in the world has doubled over the last 20 years and now exceeds the population of Thailand, an trend that is bound to continue upward.
Last year alone, the number of people on the run rose by 2.3 million people. At the end of 2017, by comparison, 68.5 million people were counted as being forcibly displaced.
More than two-thirds of the world’s refugees come from five countries: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia, the report said.
Devastated by a bloody civil war since March 2011, Syria, along with Colombia, is also the nation in the world with the largest number of IDPs.
UN experts note that the number of 70.8 million refugees is a conservative estimate, and that the real number is probably much higher. For example, the number of people who fled Venezuela's devastating crisis is undercounted.
Lebanon is the country with the largest number of refugees in proportion to the local population (one in six, down from almost one in four at one point).
Finally, the UNRWA report points out that developing nations, not the rich nations of the West, bear the brunt of migration, hosting most refugees.
Many of these are in the Middle East, scene of numerous violent ethnic, sectarian and confessional conflicts.