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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine pushed the number of uprooted people worldwide above the 100 million mark for the first time. A figure which “must serve as a warning signal”, assured the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.
It’s a first. “The number of people forced to flee conflict, violence, human rights abuses and persecution has passed the dizzying 100 million mark for the first time, driven by the war in Ukraine and other deadly conflicts “, warned Monday, May 23 the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) of the United Nations in a press release.
“The figure of 100 million is striking, worrying and sobering. It is a figure that should never have been reached, declared the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi. serve as a wake-up call for us to resolve and prevent destructive conflict, end persecution, and address the root causes that force innocent people to flee their homes.”
These 100 million uprooted people represent more than 1% of the world’s population, and only thirteen countries in the world have a population greater than this number, recalls the UNHCR, to give a better idea of the extent of the phenomenon.
The situation was already serious, as revealed by UNHCR statistics. By the end of 2021, the number of uprooted people worldwide had reached 90 million, due to new waves of violence or protracted conflicts in countries such as Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Burma, Nigeria, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
A rapid influx of refugees from the war in Ukraine
The war in Ukraine was one of the main factors in this forced exodus. It has thrown new millions of people on the roads to flee the fighting and reach less exposed regions or another country.
Europe had not seen such a rapid influx of refugees since the end of the Second World War. Almost 6.5 million Ukrainians have left the country, mostly women and children, with men of fighting age expected to stay in the country. And the UN estimates that they could be 8.3 million by the end of the year. In Ukraine itself, some 8 million people are estimated to be internally displaced.
Before the Russian invasion, Ukraine had 37 million people in the areas under its government’s control. This figure excludes Crimea (South), annexed in 2014 by Russia, and the eastern regions controlled by pro-Russian separatists.
“The response of the international community to people fleeing the war in Ukraine has been extremely positive,” said Filippo Grandi. “This surge of compassion is very real and a similar mobilization is necessary with regard to all the other crises in the world.”
But the outpouring of generosity and the mobilization of public aid for Ukraine contrasts sharply with the much more mixed reception given to refugees from other theaters of war such as Afghanistan or Syria.
Also, the boss of the UNHCR recalls that “humanitarian aid is only a palliative, not a cure”. “To reverse the trend, the only answers are peace and stability, so that innocent people are no longer forced to choose between the immediate danger of conflict and a difficult flight and exile”, he insists.
A bad situation
On Friday, he criticized the twenty countries which, more than two years after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, continue to close their borders to asylum seekers in the name of health security. He suspects them of using it as an excuse not to reopen them.
A report by two NGOs, published on May 19, counted almost 60 million people internally displaced worldwide last year, many of them due to natural disasters.
The situation in the world “has never been so bad”, observed the general secretary of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), Jan Egeland. “The world is falling apart.”