Are there really more people on the run than ever?

According to the UN Refugee Agency, around 82 million people are said to have been on the run from a wide variety of conflicts in 2020. A migration researcher advises taking a closer look at the numbers behind it.

Wien. Another sad record: In 2020, “the number of people fleeing violence, persecution and human rights violations has risen to almost 82.4 million,” writes the UN Refugee Agency on the occasion of the publication of its annual statistical report on Friday. That is around one percent of the world’s population. In 2019 it was 79 million.

During a press conference with the Austrian NGO Caritas, migration researcher Gerald Knaus advised the Austrian NGO Caritas to “read the report very carefully”. He fears that the number of 82 million refugees could be misunderstood. The UN Refugee Agency also counts people who have been living in a country for many decades, some of whom have already acquired citizenship and are no longer in a situation in which they have to fear for their lives.
As examples, Knaus cites six million Palestinians who are cited in exactly the same way as Afghans who fled to Pakistan during the Soviet era.

A problem that the spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency in Vienna is aware of. “It’s a double-edged sword for us too,” says Ruth Schöffl to the “press”. On the one hand, the report must depict the situation in the world, on the other hand, there is a risk that the 82 million in Europe will be misinterpreted.

For an Austrian audience, one emphasizes that only a fraction of these people are on their way to Europe. An addition, which is also emphasized by migration researcher Knaus, who describes the refugee movements as “controllable” for European democracies.
According to Schöffl, those who fled decades ago are included in order to “speak out for them too” and to point out how many people in the world are considered “forcibly displaced”. This term includes refugees, asylum seekers and people displaced within a country by the UN refugee agency.

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