On World Refugee Day 2014, the global total of people who had undergone forced displacement was the highest on record since World War II. A Global Trends report compiled by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) established a figure of 51.2 million globally displaced people at the end of 2013, an increase of six million from 45.2 million in 2012. The globally displaced population consists of refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced people—those who have fled their homes to other parts of their home countries.
Refugees account for 16.7 million people worldwide—including over six million who had been in exile for more than five years by the end of 2013. Over half (53 percent) of the 11.7 million refugees under the UNHCR’s mandate came from three countries—Afghanistan (2.56 million), the Syrian Arab Republic (2.47 million), and Somalia (1.12 million). (The remaining five million Palestinian refugees are registered under the United Nations Reliefs Works Agency, UNRWA.) In a span of just five years, Syria has gone from being the world’s second largest refugee-hosting country to being its second largest refugee-producing country.
The report documented nearly 1.2 million asylum seekers, including a record 25,300 asylum applications from children who had been separated from or were unaccompanied by their parents. Internally displaced people amounted to a record 33.3 million people, the largest increase of any group in the Global Trends report. The UNHCR noted that “helping these people represents a special challenge as many are in conflict zones.”
Further, the report noted that the figure of 51.2 million forcibly displaced people does not include the worldwide population of stateless people. Noting that statelessness “remains hard to quantify with precision,” the UNHCR reported a figure of 3.5 million stateless people based on data reported by the governments of seventy-five countries. However, recognizing limits in that data, the UNHCR estimated that statelessness affected closer to ten million people in 2013.
“We are seeing here the immense costs of not ending wars, of failing to resolve or prevent conflict,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres. “Peace is today dangerously in deficit. Humanitarians can help as a palliative, but political solutions are vitally needed. Without this, the alarming levels of conflict and the mass suffering that is reflected in these figures will continue.”
“World Refugee Day: Global Forced Displacement Tops 50 Million for First Time in Post-World War II Era,” United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), June 20, 2014, http://www.unhcr.org/53a155bc6.html.
War’s Human Cost, UNHCR Global Trends 2013, June 20, 2014,http://www.unhcr.org/5399a14f9.html.
Student Researchers: Stephanie Sun and Chinasa T. Okolo (Pomona College)
Faculty Evaluator: Andy Lee Roth (Pomona College)