Forced Displacement: Revisiting 2022 Global Trends

The last decade has seen a steady rise in forced displacement due to persecution, conflict, generalised violence, human rights violations and other events affecting public security and stability. 2022 was no exception, with the largest ever increase of displaced people in a single year. By the end of 2022, there were 108.4m forcibly displaced people worldwide, including 35.5m refugees, 5.4m asylum seekers, 62.5m internally displaced persons (IDPs) and 5.2m others in need of international protection.

The vast majority of refugees come from 10 countries, with over half from Syria, Ukraine and Afghanistan alone. Of those forcibly displaced outside of their country, 70% are hosted in neighbouring countries, largely in low or middle-income countries; Türkiye, Iran and Colombia host the largest proportion, with Aruba, Lebanon, Curaçao and Jordan hosting the highest numbers in relation to their native population. 

A complex combination of factors contributed to the significant numbers of new displacements in 2022, including new and continuing conflicts, climate related disasters, the residual effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and rising energy and commodity prices in the wake of the pandemic and Russian invasion of Ukraine. In particular, the invasion of Ukraine has resulted in one of the fastest and largest displacement crises since the Second World War, with 5.9m Ukrainian IDPs and 5.7m refugees by the end of 2022. An additional 4.4m fled from other countries such as Afghanistan and Venezuela, with new asylum claims up 30% from pre-pandemic levels. Regarding internal displacement, armed conflict and violence in countries such as Myanmar, Mozambique, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Sudan resulted in 28m people becoming IDPs.

New and ongoing conflicts in 2023 mean that this trajectory is likely to continue. Conflict, floods and drought have forced 1m to flee in Somalia, whilst the outbreak of conflict in Sudan in April is adding to the severe food insecurity and displacement already affecting much of the population, causing 1.2m people to become internally displaced and almost 380,000 displaced outside of the country in the first month of the conflict. Internal displacement also continues to rise in countries like Myanmar and the DRC where conflict, persecution and political upheaval persists.

The UNHCR views voluntary repatriation, local integration and resettlement in a third country as the most durable solutions for forcibly displaced people. Many of those displaced wish to return to their homes when the crises that forced them to flee are resolved. This proved possible for 5.9m IDPs and 340,000 refugees in 2022, however, for the vast majority, returning home is not possible or safe. Of the 1.5m displaced people identified by the UNHCR as being in need of resettlement in a third country, 114,000 were resettled in 2022.  A further 3.8m, the vast majority being Ukrainian, were granted temporary protection in host countries; 300,000 were recognised as refugees on a group basis in countries such as South Sudan, the DRC and Mali. Despite this, by the end of the year, 5.4m asylum seekers were still waiting for decisions on their applications, with the backlog increasing significantly in Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico, the UK and USA.

These figures demonstrate that repatriation and resettlement remain feasible and accessible only to a minority of forcibly displaced people. Local integration in host communities remains a potential option for those who are displaced both within and outside of their countries, however this requires governments and host communities to actively protect the rights of displaced populations, allowing them to access public services, fully participate in the economic, political and social life of their host country, sustain themselves and experience long-term stability.

“These figures show us that some people are far too quick to rush to conflict, and way too slow to find solutions. The consequence is devastation, displacement, and anguish for each of the millions of people forcibly uprooted from their homes.” ­– Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees

To read more, see the UNHCR’s report on Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2022 

Bethany Hughes

28th September 2023

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