GENEVA: Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the number of people fleeing war and persecution continued rising last year, with global displacement climbing to over 82 million -- double the figure a decade ago, the UN said Friday.
A fresh report from the UN refugee agency showed global displacement figures swelled by around three million in 2020 after an already record-breaking year in 2019, leaving a full one percent of humanity uprooted and displaced.
The report highlighted how drawn-out crises like those in Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen were continuing to force people to flee, while eruptions of violence in places like Ethiopia and Mozambique were causing surging displacement.
The fact that the numbers rose for the ninth straight year was all the more devastating because Covid-19 restrictions had been expected to limit displacement.
During the pandemic, "everything else has stopped, including the economies, but wars and conflict and violence and discrimination and persecution, all the factors that pushed these people to flee, have continued," UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi told AFP.
The UN agency found that by the end of 2020, a record 82.4 million people were living as refugees or asylum seekers, or in so-called internal displacement within their own countries, up from some 40 million in 2011.
"Today's global displacement figures are an epic failure of humanity," head of the Norwegian Refugee Council Jan Egeland said, pointing out that "far more people are on the move today than anytime during World War II."
"Yet despite the staggering statistics, world leaders have been inept to resolve the greatest emergency of our generation."
The UNHCR report highlighted that a full 42 percent of the world's displaced are girls and boys under the age of 18.
"The tragedy of so many children being born into exile should be reason enough to make far greater efforts to prevent and end conflict and violence," Grandi said.