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UNHCR Mid-Year Trends 2020

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As the year 2020 got underway, an estimated 79.5 million people remained forcibly displaced due to persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations or events seriously disturbing public order, and few could have anticipated how dramatically the novel coronavirus would affect their lives in the months ahead. Yet COVID-19’s socioeconomic impact has weighed heavily on the world’s most vulnerable, including forcibly displaced and stateless people, leaving them in critical need of solidarity and support.

Despite an urgent appeal from the U.N. Secretary-General on 23 March 2020 calling for a global ceasefire to address the pandemic, new displacement has not halted. While COVID-19 has temporarily led to a reduction in the number of new asylum-seekers due to movement restrictions and border closures, including when no exceptions are made for admission to territory, the underlying factors leading to conflict in situations globally remain unaddressed. Trends which UNHCR reported previously have continued: political crises and conflict have created new humanitarian emergencies further raising the number of those forcibly displaced.

Achieving durable solutions for forcibly displaced populations has become even more challenging, as conflicts go unresolved and insecurity remains widespread in many countries of origin. At the same time, resettlement countries are accepting smaller numbers of refugees, and host countries are struggling to integrate displaced populations.
Restrictions on movement and concerns about transmission of the virus have resulted in some solutions programmes being almost entirely suspended. Consequently, the first half of 2020 saw a significant decline in the number of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) who could avail themselves of a solution compared to the same period in previous years. Therefore, an increasing number found themselves in protracted and longlasting displacement situations.

The World Bank’s analysis of the impact of COVID-19 has shown that pandemic-related job losses and deprivation worldwide are hitting already-poor and vulnerable people hard, while also altering the profile of global poverty by creating millions of “new poor.” The World Bank projects that, in 2020, between 88 million and 115 million people could fall back into extreme poverty as a result of the pandemic, with an additional increase of between 23 million and 35 million in 2021, potentially bringing the total number of new people living in extreme poverty to between 110 million and 150 million. Three factors account for this anticipated increase: the COVID-19 pandemic, armed conflict and climate change.
These phenomena are expected to acutely impact a substantial number of countries that host forcibly displaced populations or are source countries for displacement.

For instance, conflict across the Sahel region in Africa remained one of the major drivers for new displacement in the first half of 2020. Massive security problems caused by armed groups prevail.
Thousands of women have been raped as part of the dynamics of violence. More than 3,600 schools in the past few years have been destroyed or closed.

change on conflicts in this part of the continent, strengthening the regional capacity to respond to population movements through initiatives such as the Bamako process remains critical to help rapidly address the challenges the region is facing.

Significant new displacement has also been registered during the first half of this year in the Syrian Arab Republic (Syria), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Mozambique, Somalia and Yemen, among other locations, due to continued, new or increasing violence. While a full picture is yet to be established, UNHCR estimates that global forced displacement has surpassed 80 million at mid2020. International protection and access to asylum, therefore, continue to be life-saving for many.

This report focuses on displacement trends in the first half of 2020. The figures presented here were collected from governments and UNHCR offices around the world and supplemented, where required, with data from non-governmental organizations. Unless otherwise specified, figures relate solely to events occurring up to 30 June 2020. The statistics included in this report should be considered provisional and subject to change.