June 20 is World Refugee Day, and in honor of this year's theme, Take a Step on World Refugee Day, the United Nations announced a year-long campaign to raise awareness for those displaced often by war or persecution.
The organization's Refugee Agency (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR) is asking volunteers to walk, run, or cycle one billion miles throughout 12 months. According to the UNHCR, this is the same distance refugees all over the world travel every year in attempts to reach the closest haven.
On 19 June, the department released a report on refugee trends that occurred in 2018, Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2018.
The report found that an estimated 2.3 million people were added to the global population of individuals forcibly displaced in 2018 (or 37,000 new displacements every day), with the total population of refugees reaching nearly 70.8 million by the end of the year, a record high. Reasons for people fleeing to nearby safe locations—often a neighboring country—included persecution, conflict, or human rights violations. Similar to recent years, children younger than 18 are estimated to make up about half of this population.
According to the data, Turkey hosted the largest number of refugees for the fifth year straight, with 3.7 million displaced persons; Pakistan next with 1.4 million; then Uganda with 1.2 million; and Sudan and Germany with 1.1 million each.
"What we are seeing in these figures is further confirmation of a longer-term rising trend in the number of people needing safety from war, conflict, and persecution," Filippo Grandi, UNHCR's high commissioner, said in the report.
The UNHCR also approved 81,337 resettlement submissions out of 1.4 million applications from refugees in need of life-saving protection. Resettlement and complementary pathways are also a way for other countries and communities to assist in responding to increasing refugee crises, while helping host countries that are taking on a majority of displaced persons. Canada welcomed the most resettled refugees (28,100), then the United States (22,900), while other countries that admitted a significant number of resettled persons included Australia, the United Kingdom, and France. Canada also reported the second-largest number of refugee naturalizations, with 18,300 displaced individuals from 162 different countries becoming citizens.
The UN agency found that by the end of 2018, the refugee population almost doubled since 2012, with more than 67 percent of all refugees were from five countries: Syrian Arab Republic (6.7 million), Afghanistan (2.7 million), South Sudan (2.3 million), Myanmar (1.1 million), and Somalia (0.9 million). Also, the number of new refugees and asylum seekers from the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela notably increased, resulting in the second-largest flow of new international displacements for the year. "People are leaving Venezuela for many reasons," the report said. "...violence, insecurity, fear of being targeted for their political opinions (whether real or perceived), shortages of food and medicine, lack of access to social services, and being unable to support themselves and their families."