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, and Ethiopia. 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 dramatises 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. 

"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.” 

Here in the UK, amongst the thousands of refugees rebuilding their life is 35-year old Jane, a Ukrainian single mum who was forced to flee her home and is now living in Surrey. Jane and her two children, 13 year old Arsienii and 8 year old Sofiia, left their hometown of Kharkiv when bombs began falling, with Jane singlehandedly driving her children east for five days until they reached safety. After arriving in the UK through the refugee sponsorship scheme, Arsienii and Sofiaa now await school places whilst Jane works remotely in her job as an economist.  

When the IRC met with Jane and her family, she told us: “Before, I never thought that I can be a refugee. I always thought that it’s not about me. It was so far from me. My hope for the future is that war will stop in our country... I still dream about our home in Ukraine. I still dream about coming home.” 

13 year old Arsienii added: “Of course I miss my country. I miss my family, my pets and my friends.” 

Jane and her son’s story echoes the ones of many refugees around the world. We must not forget the crises that have slipped from the headlines. In the UK, the IRC works to provide vital integration support to resettled refugees from all over the globe, and to empower them to rebuild their lives. Chadia, a 43 year old woman from Syria, is one of them. Chadia fled Syria with her family 6 years ago and has been able to rebuild her life in the UK with help from the IRC.  

Chadia said, about the life she left in Syria: “Before the war, I never thought of leaving my country, because everything was available. But during the war, you have to find a safe life if you have a family, especially children. I was scared that if my children went out and my husband went to work, they may not come back.”

About finding safety and rebuilding her life in the UK, with the IRC, she said: “The first course was lots of information about the UK – I knew some of it, but I know more after the course. And the IRC helped me a lot with my CV, and I got this job here. But the most important thing for me is my children, and I came for my children to study, to have a good education and to find a good job. Yeah, I feel happy when I see them have a good life”. 

The UK Government has the responsibility to help these people further and must rethink and strengthen its approach to refugee protection. This means resourcing the asylum system rather than seeking to deter asylum seekers, and abandoning proposals such as the Rwanda deportation scheme. 

The IRC is calling on countries including the UK to commit to resettling an additional 200,000 refugees collectively – boosting global resettlement slots to 400,000. The UK should specifically commit to resettling 10,000 refugees this year.   

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. 

Laura Kyrke-Smith, UK Executive Director at the IRC, said: “Britain has a proud history of welcoming refugees and supporting people caught up in conflict and crisis overseas. The hand of welcome that so many Brits have extended to Ukrainians is no exception.

"Unfortunately the kindness and generosity of the British public is not reflected in this Government’s approach to refugees and asylum seekers, which not only risks further traumatising these vulnerable people, but sets us apart from other progressive nations of the world.

"The UK Government should commit to resettling 10,000 refugees per year, with integration support provided from arrival, while reforming the broken asylum system in this country. No one chooses to become a refugee, but this Government can choose to be kind to those who are.”