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Global number of refugees, forcibly displaced people passes 100M

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Global number of refugees, forcibly displaced people passes 100M
A family eats while living in a metro station in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Friday. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI. | License Photo

May 23 (UPI) -- The number of global refugees and people forcibly displaced from their homes has passed 100 million for the first time amid the war in Ukraine and other conflicts, the United Nation's High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said Monday.

"It's a record that should never have been set," Grandi said in a statement, noting that the figure is about 1% of the global population and equivalent to the 14th most populous country in the world.

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"This must serve as a wake-up call to resolve and prevent destructive conflicts, end persecution, and address the underlying causes that force innocent people to flee their homes."

Data from the UNHCR shows that the number of displaced people worldwide rose to 90 million by the end of 2021 propelled by violence in Africa and the Middle East. The agency will release the data in its full annual report with global trends in June.

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Apart from Ukraine, the UNHCR particularly outlined protracted conflict in Afghanistan where the Taliban took control from the U.S.-backed government in August as American troops left the country. The Taliban has since rolled back freedoms and ordered all women to wear full-body coverings.

The conflict between the Taliban and government forces triggered more than 723,000 new displacements in the country, mostly in May and August, according to a recent report from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre.

More than 4.1 million people have been internally displaced in total in Afghanistan since 2008 as the Global War on Terror raged, the data shows.

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The UNHCR also highlighted conflict in Burkina Faso, where the nation's army seized control of the country from President Rock Marc Kabore in January.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said in March that she was "profoundly concerned by the recent coup in Burkina Faso" which she called "a setback that may severely compromise" progress made toward human rights she previously observed.

"Transitional authorities must adhere to the country's commitments under international human rights law. The security situation, particularly in the three-border area between Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, is alarming," she said.

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"We continue to document human rights violations by the security forces, and abuses and attacks by armed groups, in a conflict that has displaced 2.5 million people over the past 10 years."

The UNHCR also referenced conflict in Myanmar -- which has been led by a military junta after the country's civilian leaders were arrested in February 2021.

In February, the United Nation's top court resumed hearings into the alleged genocide of Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar in 2017.

Other nations noted by the UNHCR for the recent increases in displaced people include Ethiopia, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

More than 8 million people have been displaced within Ukraine since Russia invaded the country on Feb. 24, the agency said.

In addition to the internal displacements, Ukraine has also seen more than 6.5 million refugees fleeing for neighboring countries in Europe.

More than 3.5 million refugees have fled to Poland though many of them may have since moved on to other countries within Europe. Poland is a member of Europe's Schengen Area which allows for easy travel between countries.

More than 644,000 have departed for Hungary and more than 442,000 have fled for Slovakia, both of which are also in the Schengen Area.

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Another 961,000 have fled for Romania and more than 471,000 have fled for Moldova.

Grandi praised the "overwhelmingly positive" international response to people fleeing war in Ukraine as countries take in the refugees.

"Compassion is alive and we need a similar mobilization for all crises around the world. But ultimately, humanitarian aid is a palliative, not a cure," Grandi said.

"To reverse this trend, the only answer is peace and stability so that innocent people are not forced to gamble between acute danger at home or precarious flight and exile."

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre also tracks displacement from disasters and has logged more than 5 million displacements from such events as flooding in China and landslides in the Philippines.

India has also seen a large number of displacements from disasters, more than 4.9 million, while the United States has logged 503,000 from such events as the wildfires in California and New Mexico.

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