Geopolitics

More than 100 million people around the world have been forcibly displaced

Refugees welcome sign.

UN World Refugee Day is on 20 June. Image: UNSPLASH/Ricardo Gomez Angel

Stefan Ellerbeck
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
Joe Myers
Writer, Forum Agenda
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This article was first published on 20 June 2022. It has been updated on 20 June 2023.

  • More than 108 million people across the globe were forcibly displaced at the end of last year.
  • That's a rise of 19 million since 2021, and the largest ever year-on-year increase.
  • The theme for World Refugee Day this year is 'hope away from home'.

At the end of 2022, more than 108 million people across the globe were forcibly displaced as a result of the conflict, violence, persecution and human rights violations, according to the latest data from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

The figure has risen by 19 million since 2021 and is the largest ever year-on-year increase, UNHCR says. It means more than 1 in every 74 people on the planet has been forced to flee their home.

Refugees, asylum-seekers and others in need of international protection displaced during each year | 1975 – 2022.
The number of displaced people around the world has risen sharply since 2020. Image: UNHCR

Protecting the vulnerable

More than 35 million people were refugees at the end of 2022, up from 27.1 million at the end of 2021, according to UNHCR.

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are those who have had to flee their homes but have not crossed a border, the ICRC says. However, there is no convention for IDPs equivalent to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention or the UNHCR’s mandate, just protections under international human rights law and domestic laws.

Some 58% of all forcibily displaced people are internally displaced, according to the latest figures.

World Refugee Day

UN World Refugee Day takes place on 20 June. It aims to build understanding of the experiences refugees are going through, and the theme this year is seeking hope away from home.

UNHCR explains that “including refugees in the communities where they have found safety after fleeing conflict and persecution is the most effective way to support them in restarting their lives and enable them to contribute to the countries hosting them.”

This inclusion is also the best way to ensure refugees are ready to return home and rebuild their lives and countries once conditions allow, UNHCR adds.

“Refugees represent the very best of the human spirit. They need and deserve support and solidarity — not closed borders and pushbacks,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said ahead of this year’s World Refugee Day.

Discover

How is the World Economic Forum helping to improve humanitarian assistance?

  • The right to seek asylum: Seeking asylum is a human right. Anyone fleeing persecution, conflict or human rights abuses has a right to seek protection in another country.
  • Safe access: Borders should remain open to all people forced to flee. Restricting access and closing borders can make journeys even more dangerous for people seeking safety.
  • No pushbacks: People can’t be forced to return to a country if their life or freedom would be at risk.
  • No discrimination: All applications for refugee status at borders must be given fair consideration regardless of factors like race, religion, gender and country of origin.
  • Humane treatment: People forced to flee are entitled to respectful and dignified treatment. This means keeping families together, protecting people from traffickers and avoiding arbitrary detention.

Before the war on Ukraine began, around 83% of displaced people originated from just 10 countries, according to the UNHCR.

Flows of refugees, people in refugee-like situations and other people in need of international protection from their region of origin to their region of asylum | 1975 – 2022.
Flows of refugees around the world. Image: UNHCR

How businesses are helping

Ahead of this year’s World Refugee Day, more than 40 multinational business have committed to providing training, jobs and connections to refugees across Europe. The pledges will help the more than 250,000 refugees across the continent, with a special emphasis on Ukrainian refugees, reports CNN.

The World Economic Forum’s Refugee Employment Alliance is co-chaired by UNHCR and the Ingka Group, and aims to bring together partners from across the public and private sectors to boost economic opportunities for refugees.

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