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World Refugee Day: A reading list as forced displacement hits record levels

Failed integration policies and political misinformation have eroded support in key host nations.

Palestinians flee Rafah due to an Israeli military operation, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, June 7, 2024. Hatem Khaled/Reuters
Palestinians flee Rafah due to an Israeli military operation in the southern Gaza Strip, 7 June 2024.

On today’s World Refugee Day, the number of people forced from their homes due to conflict, persecution, and the climate crisis has reached an unprecedented level, even as politically charged misinformation has helped to erode refugee support in key host nations.

By the end of 2023, there were more than 43.4 million refugees around the world, 40% of them under the age of 18. Some two million were born as refugees, with 4.4 million rendered stateless.

Many more – a record 120 million people by the end of May 2024 – have been forcibly displaced globally, including millions trapped in conflict zones within their own countries, from Gaza to Sudan, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Myanmar, from Colombia to Haiti.

A new survey conducted in 52 countries for the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, found that support has declined in some Western and major host countries amid concerns over security and integration – false narratives often stoked by populist politicians and far-right parties.

Many nations and their people, however, are still supporting refugees and internally displaced people, and low- and middle-income countries notably host 75% of refugees globally.

Those forcibly displaced from their homes don’t have to cross borders and become refugees to be in desperate need.

By the end of 2023, some 10.8 million people had been displaced in Sudan: 9.1 million internally and 1.7 million as refugees abroad. Prior to the civil war, which erupted in April 2023, Sudan was already home to at least one million refugees from Eritrea, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Syria. Many of those people have had to return home prematurely or seek refuge elsewhere. Almost 400,000 South Sudanese refugees have returned to their conflict-torn homes. 

At least 6.9 million Palestinian refugees are under UNRWA’s mandate, including 1.8 million in the Gaza Strip. But over 80% of the Gazan population is now internally displaced, seeking safety from constant Israeli attacks that are hitting schools, hospitals, and makeshift shelters in open areas and streets.

More than three million people have been forcibly displaced within Myanmar – where a long civil war has escalated in recent months – while another 1.3 million refugees and asylum seekers, mostly minority Rohingya Muslims, are hosted in other countries. Most live in refugee camps in Bangladesh, where growing insecurity, food aid cuts, and deadly fires have driven many to risk their lives on dangerous sea routes to Indonesia and Malaysia. Shortly before this reading list was published, thousands were displaced again by deadly mudslides in the camps.

Nearly 10.9 million Afghans have been forced from their homes – the vast majority of them remain displaced within Afghanistan or have sought refuge in neighbouring countries, particularly Iran and Pakistan. Nearly three-quarters of all refugees under UNHCR’s mandate are from five countries: Afghanistan, Syria, Venezuela, Ukraine, and South Sudan. Other countries with high refugee and forcibly displaced populations are the DRC, Somalia, and Haiti. 

Amid record needs this World Refugee Day, here is a collection of our recent reporting on refugee and forced displacement communities around the globe:

A black and white drawing where a the subject sits at a pier by the water. It feeds bread crumbs to many paper boats that surround the pier. This art is by the Cuban artist Ramiro Zardoya.

Flipping the Narrative

Flipping the Narrative is an ongoing series that aims to put the voices of refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants at the centre of conversations about the policies and events that shape their lives.

An uneven dirt road runs past shops selling dried goods and essential items in Bidi Bidi refugee settlement, empty in the early morning. August 2023.

EXCLUSIVE: How a WFP food aid revamp has gone wrong for refugees in Uganda

Aid officials and refugees say the prioritisation scheme has been disastrous, citing increases in crime, child marriage, prostitution, and sexual abuse.

We see a group of people holding their right hand to the left side of their chest, as if singing a national anthem.

After two years in Poland, Ukrainian refugees ask when – and if – they will go home

In Ukraine, 9.7 million Ukrainians remained forcibly displaced by the end of 2023. Nearly one million Ukrainian refugees live in Poland, 41% of them school-age children. How much of a new life should they build; and when – if ever – will they be able to return home?

Two people walking up a staircase towards money that's hanging from strings.

How to fund refugee-led aid

Refugee-led organisations (RLOs) are key first-responders in the communities they are a part of and serve. But RLOs received just $26.4 million in traceable humanitarian and development funding in 2022, a recent study found. 

Venezuelan migrants carrying luggage are pictured as they get on a government bus at the Simon Bolivar International airport.

Latin America makes it harder for Venezuelan refugees as xenophobia mounts

Venezuelan refugees and migrants face rising xenophobia and growing challenges to integrate into host countries across Latin America, even as President Nicolás Maduro’s latest wave of repression ahead of July elections threatens new migration outflows.

What's Unsaid podcast teaser picture with a portrait photo in black and white of Victor Nyamori mid-speech, over a radial gradient background. The color at the center is a purplish blue and the color outside is green. On the top right, a bit skewed to the right we see the title of the podcast: What’s Unsaid.

What’s Unsaid | Kenya’s new integration plan for refugees: Hope or hype?

Last year, the Kenyan government announced a plan that could transform the lives of the more than 600,000 refugees sheltering in the country – ending a three-decade-old policy that has forced them to remain in isolated, overcrowded, and chronically underfunded camps.

Isaac Ankora is pictured at the left side of the frame, looking into the distance towards the right. A dirt road surrounded by green foliage is in the background.

Why refugee ration cuts in Uganda risk long-term social damage 

Refugees in Uganda are turning to increasingly desperate measures following drastic reductions in humanitarian aid, yet the worst effects of these cuts are yet to be seen as their social networks buckle trying to fill the gaps left by aid agencies.

A group of people are loading a pick-up truck with goods at Ourang refugee camp in eastern Chad.

Reporter’s diary: Inside Darfur’s neglected refugee crisis

More than half a million Darfuris have been driven into neighbouring Chad by the civil war in Sudan. In this reporter’s diary, investigative journalist Hafiz Haroun flags a neglected refugee crisis marked by food and medicine shortages, and inadequate shelters. 

This photo shows large groups of people gathering to receive the humanitarian aid supplies that are being airdropped by plane through parachutes into the city of Khan Yunis. You can see two parachutes over the crowd.

Opinion | Gaza demands a new kind of humanitarian action 

Yara Asi, an assistant professor at the School of Global Health and Informatics at the University of Central Florida, tells The New Humanitarian that Gaza demands a new kind of humanitarian action: Aid will not fix the damage done by the eight-month Israeli onslaught.

Edited by Andrew Gully.

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