UNHCR says 79.5m people forcibly displaced worldwide. That's 1% of humanity
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) released its annual Global Trends Report ahead of World Refugee Day, marked on 20 June.
In 1990, the number of displaced people worldwide was at the 40-million mark.
Ten years later, that figure has almost doubled.
The report shows that an unprecedented 79.5 million people were displaced as of the end of 2019.
"Forced displacement is now affecting more than one per cent of humanity – 1 in every 97 people – and with fewer and fewer of those who flee being able to return home."
This situation is particularly dire during a worldwide pandemic as the conditions refugees are generally subjected to make Covid-19 measures difficult to observe says Leonard Zulu, UNHCR representative in South Africa.
This year we have reached a rather solemn landmark. There are 79.5-million displaced people who have been forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations or events seriously disturbing public order.Leonard Zulu, SA representative - UNHCR
They live in crowded refugee camps or in locations where it is very difficult for them to maintain social distance and they are marginalised, they are poor people so it's difficult for them to have things like masks, hand sanitisers and the like.Leonard Zulu, SA representative - UNHCR
The African continent accounts for 18-million of the displaced - that's 26%.
Zulu says these refugees are mainly from South Sudan and more than half are being accommodated by Uganda.
He also praised South Africa's policy of inviting refugees to live with the host community, comparing it favourably with Uganda's refugee policy.
The government maintains an open door policy and welcomes refugees in the true spirit of ubuntu, much like here in South Africa.Leonard Zulu, SA representative - UNHCR
South Africa is a world leader in this regard... Today we have just under 270,000 refugees and asylum seekers still registered. South Africa maintains an open door policy and allows refugees to participate in the socio-economic fabric of the country.Leonard Zulu, SA representative - UNHCR
He maintains that in those reported incidents of "xenophobic violence" in South Africa it's not that refugees or asylum seekers are specifically targeted:
Sometimes it happens that the host community and foreign nationals, and there's no distinction between who's a refugee and who's just a migrant sometimes involved in a situation where violence is manifest.Leonard Zulu, SA representative - UNHCR
But it's a model asylum country and we are quite pleased and proud of the generosity of the South African population and the South African government.Leonard Zulu, SA representative - UNHCR
The Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Thursday ordered government to include asylum seekers and special permit holders in the Covid-19 unemployment grant.
Listen to the conversation with the UNHCR representative in South Africa below:
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