Record 55 million internally displaced world over. A major migration watchdog reported on Thursday that violence and disasters – often caused or exacerbated by the effects of climate change – forced people to relocate more than 40 million times last year, the highest number in a decade.
The Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (DMC), in its latest global report, states that a record 55 million people lived far from home but in their own countries at the end of last year, such as hurricanes and floods, more than a decade. Sometimes people move two or three times.
The Geneva-based center, which is part of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said the number of internally displaced persons was more than double the number of refugees – those fleeing abroad – at the end of last year. The group warned that the figures may be “very undervalued” because the Covid-19 tourism restrictions affect data collection.
“It is shocking that a person is forced to flee his home within his own country every second of last year,” said NRC Secretary-General Jan Egeland. “We fail to protect the world’s most vulnerable people from conflicts and disasters.”
Of those who fled their homes by the end of the year, about 48 million people had fled conflict and violence and 7 million had fled the disaster, the group said.
The center has witnessed increasing violence and widespread activity from activist groups in countries such as Ethiopia, Mozambique and Burkina Faso last year, as well as ongoing wars in places such as Congo, Syria and Afghanistan.
It also noted severe storms in the Americas, Asia, and the Pacific, as well as long periods of rainfall in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa, and said that such weather conditions have affected millions.
Overall, the highest number of people leaving their homes last year was in China, facing frequent floods and authorities encouraging or requiring internal migration out of the rising watershed, followed by the Philippines and Bangladesh. More than 5 million people in China were forced to relocate internally last year.
Numbers can go up
MicrosoftC director Alexandra Bilakk said “it is very important that these figures be recorded after Covid-19”.
Pointing out that movement restrictions restrict data collection and “few people seek emergency shelters for fear of infection”, he suggested that the actual figures were high.
The epidemic had worsened the economic situation of migrants, he added.
Impact of climate change
Experts say that climate change increases the intensity and frequency of such extreme weather events.
“We can expect from the future impacts of climate change that these disasters will be more widespread and more severe, and therefore more likely to increase the number of migrants,” Bilak said. It also warned that the combination of conflicts and natural disasters exacerbates the problem, as 95% of the migration of new conflicts last year took place in countries at risk of the effects of climate change. “Climate change and the overuse of natural resources can increase stability and conflict, which can cause people to move on,” it said.