The number of forcibly displaced people reaches a record 120 million

New and existing conflicts and wars remain the largest contributor in forcing people to leave their homes followed by climate catastrophes such as prolonged droughts and frequent floods

June 14, 2024 by Peoples Dispatch
A Sudanese refugee in Chad. Photo via UNHCR

The number of forcibly displaced people across the world has reached a record level of 120 million by May 2024, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). This means that one in every 69 people in the entire world is forcibly displaced.

The number of forcibly displaced people continues to increase, despite nearly 6 million people, including one million refugees, returning back to their homes globally last year. 2023 also became the 12th consecutive year with an increase in the numbers of forcibly displaced people according to the UNHCR flagship Global Trend Report, published on June 13. 

The largest number of overall forcibly displaced people still come from Syria, where nearly 13.8 million people are still living as refugees or internally displaced people due to a war which began in 2011.  

In recent years, the largest number of displaced people have come from Sudan, where the war between the nation’s army, led by Abdel Fatah al-Burah, and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) led by Mohamad Hammad Dagalo (Hemedti) broke out in April 2023. The war has forced nearly 11 million people to flee their homes, cities and villages by the end of 2023. This includes over 9 million internally displaced people, which is the largest number ever recorded for a country.  

Millions have also been displaced in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Myanmar, Yemen and several other countries which have witnessed or are still witnessing prolonged conflicts. 

Over 1.8 million Palestinians have been displaced by Israeli forces in Gaza in a genocidal war ongoing since October 7, making nearly 75% of all Palestinians in the besieged territory displaced, according to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the designated refugee agency for displaced Palestinians.   

The number of displaced doubled since 2014

Globally, the number of displaced people has doubled since 2014. That year, there were around 59.2 million displaced people in the world. The numbers have since increased to 117 million by the end of 2023, and reaching 120 million in May this year. The number of refugees has also doubled in the same period.

The primary cause of forced displacement across the world is armed conflict. The next major reason for forced displacement is related to climate catastrophes. Devastating floods and prolonged droughts, among other catastrophes force people to move and sometimes cross borders, even at the risk of becoming stateless.

Those trying to cross borders to escape war, poverty, or climate catastrophe are often at risk of losing their lives every year crossing terrain such as deserts and seas without adequate resources. Migrants also risk become victims of various kinds of crime such as murder, rape, kidnapping, torture and human trafficking.

“Without better cooperation and concerted efforts to address conflict, human rights violations and the climate crisis, displacement figures will keep rising, bringing fresh misery and costly humanitarian responses,” said Filippo Grandi, the head of the UNHCR.