A SHARP INCREASE IN GLOBAL MASS DISPLACEMENT IN 2021 – GCR2P

Refugee Camp

A SHARP INCREASE IN GLOBAL MASS DISPLACEMENT IN 2021 – GCR2P

On 11 November the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) released the 2021 Mid-Year Trends report, noting that the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide has continued to increase for nine consecutive years.  Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ March 2020 call for a global ceasefire, UNHCR reported that the number of active conflicts reached a record high in 2020.  Further, the number of people forced to flee has risen sharply since the end of 2020 and likely exceeded 84 million by mid-2021.  Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, stressed that, “the international community is failing to prevent violence, persecution and human rights violations, which continue to drive people from their homes.”

As in previous years, the report provides evidence of the close relationship between atrocity crimes and mass displacement.  In most of the top 10 countries of origin for international displacement as of mid-2021, state authorities and/or non-state armed groups have perpetrated crimes against humanity or war crimes, including in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Myanmar (Burma), South Sudan, Syria and Venezuela. More than a quarter of all people displaced across borders between January and June 2021 were from Syria – which continues to account for the world’s largest refugee population – as millions have fled atrocities, including war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Intensifying violence led to significant new internal displacements as well in the first half of 2021, bringing the total number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to nearly 50.9 million.  New internal displacements caused by escalating violence were recorded in Afghanistan, the Central Sahel, DRC, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Myanmar and South Sudan.  In Myanmar, the total number of IDPs grew by 54 percent following the military coup in February and the subsequent increase in targeted violence against civilians, which may amount to crimes against humanity.  According to the Mid-Year report, more than 120,000 people fled escalating violence and atrocities in Burkina Faso, further fueling one of the world’s fastest growing internal displacement crises.  Conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, and growing insecurity in other parts of the country due in part to ethnic violence, sparked more than 1.2 million new displacements in the first half of 2021.  Hundreds of thousands more have been internally displaced worldwide in the second half of the year due to ongoing conflicts.

Savita Pawnday, Executive Director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, said that, “in keeping with the 1951 Refugee Convention, the international community has both a moral and legal obligation to assist refugees forced to flee their homes as a result of mass atrocities. Providing safe haven is a way that the international community can uphold its responsibility to protect.  The soaring displacement numbers over the years demonstrate the need to confront intractable conflicts, protect vulnerable populations, and find solutions that enable the safe, voluntary return of all displaced populations.”

The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P) is an independent organization that focuses on conducting research analysis and advocacy in relation to mass atrocity.

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