The International Rescue Committee calls for global action to make this World Refugee Day a turning point in the campaign for dignity for the world’s displaced people as new data reveals that 89.3 million people were forced to flee their homes last year – taking the global toll to over 100 million, inclusive of Ukraine.

The numbers reflect the almost 90 million people displaced by ongoing conflict and disaster in countries such as Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Venezuela. Not included are the more than 7 million internally displaced people within Ukraine and the more than 6 million refugees who have left Ukraine since the conflict began in early 2022. In total, a record number of over 100 million people globally have been uprooted from their homes, an increase of 20% compared to the 82.4 million displaced at the end of 2020. Overall, the number of displaced persons has more than doubled in the last ten years alone.

David Miliband, President and CEO at the International Rescue Committee, said:

“100 million people displaced, including 14 million Ukrainians forced to flee their homes, is historic but will be the prelude to higher and higher numbers without urgent action. This is not simply because it is the greatest displacement figure the world has seen since World War II, nearly equal to the populations of the United Kingdom and Canada combined. Nor even because of the unprecedented rate with which the world has reached this appalling mark. This year’s World Refugee Day is historic because it dramatizes the scale of global failure. This is System Failure in Action - failure of nations, of diplomacy and of the legal regime.

This year’s World Refugee Day must not simply be a day for reflection. It must be a day for action, to fight impunity and to shore up support for refugees and their hosts – wherever they are, and whomever they are.”

Catastrophic displacement figures are now an annual norm. Rather than abating, violence and the worst impacts of climate change are testing the resilience of millions in crisis zones worldwide. 41 million people are on the brink of famine, compounded by the war in Ukraine. 274 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance – a 63% increase in just two years.

This year, the International Rescue Committee is calling on the global community to increase refugee resettlement opportunities at the highest possible levels. The United States has set and must continue to set robust refugee admissions goals to the tune of 125,000 – not inclusive of over 70,000 Afghan allies that have been resettled in the United States since August of 2021 –but they must also double down on fixes to resettlement infrastructure so that achieving these goals is actually possible. The rest of the world must follow suit by committing to resettling an additional 200,000 refugees collectively – boosting resettlement slots to 400,000 globally. 

The IRC is also calling on the international community to meaningfully invest in the crisis zones that drive the most global humanitarian need to have a chance at reducing the scale of human suffering. Donors must redirect official development assistance (ODA) to target contexts hit hardest by System Failure, committing 50% of ODA to fragile and conflict-affected states.

Ukraine, Afghanistan, growing hunger rapidly escalate refugee crisis

The impact of the war in Ukraine has been felt worldwide – only exacerbating record humanitarian suffering. In East Africa, at least 25 million people face hunger as global wheat stocks dry up and climate change continues unabated.

In Afghanistan, 24.4 million people – over 50% percent of the population – face dire humanitarian need. Economic collapse and deteriorating basic services have meant Afghanistan is now home to the highest number of food-insecure people in the world. This is the fourth decade of crisis in Afghanistan, and its six million displaced persons represent the most protracted displacement population in the world.

Miliband continued, "Ukraine’s suffering must not become a new global norm. Instead, the scale of humanitarian support should become the standard that can be expected for victims in other crises.

“For the record number of displaced persons globally, the populations that the IRC and the wider humanitarian sector serves, we need a total system upgrade. Inherent to this is a concerted and meaningful surge both in the humanitarian aid dedicated to the world’s worst crisis zones and in global resettlement commitments. The worst outcome would be standing by and allowing this grim milestone to be eclipsed next year, as the world’s most vulnerable pay the price of our inaction with their lives.”