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Global Displacement: Winter Update 2023

Updated: Jan 6

During the initial six months of 2023, seven major displacement situations accounted for an estimated 90% of new displacement globally. These include ongoing and new conflicts and humanitarian situations in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Latin America and Caribbean countries, Myanmar, Somalia, Sudan and Ukraine.


According to UNHCR, at the end of June 2023, 110 million people were forcibly displaced from their homes due to persecution, conflict, violence and human rights violations. 


This number represents an increase of more than 1.6 million people or 1% compared to the end of 2022 (108.5 million). The number of those now forcibly displaced worldwide is 1 in 73 people, with the majority – almost 9 in 10 of people forcibly displaced across borders– living in low- and middle-income (generally neighbouring) countries.


Yet, with the latest “state of war alert” declared by the Israeli military following the October 7th Hamas attack and subsequent months of sustained heavy bombardment and humanitarian crisis, the number of people forcibly displaced is expected to significantly increase. 


By Christmas day, Gaza's Hamas-run health ministry said that 20,674 Palestinians have now been killed, with almost 70% women and children. The situation has quickly become a humanitarian disaster, with no signs of the easing of Israeli airstrikes, or any successful ceasefire agreements. Around 85% of Gaza's population are now displaced. 


Prior to October 7th, UNHCR estimated that by the end of September, those forcibly displaced would have exceeded 114 million people, an increase of 4 million since the end of June. With around 1.5 million people in Gaza already internally displaced, it seems as though UNHCR’s estimations, that 117.2 million people will be forcibly displaced or stateless in 2023, are likely to be fairly accurate. 


Below are just a few examples of current humanitarian situations causing vast internal and external displacement, as well as transnational repercussions. 


Sudan 


In April 2023, war erupted between the Sudanese Army Forces and the Rapid Support Forces (paramilitary forces formerly operated by the Government of Sudan) in the capital city of Khartoum before quickly spreading to other regions of the country. This has escalated the high numbers that were already displaced since the start of the Darfur crisis in 2003. 


By September of this year, more than 5.4 million people have been forced to flee their homes and are either internally displaced or are living in neighbouring (predominantly low-income) countries such as Chad, South Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia. 


The recent fighting since April has created a humanitarian emergency both inside Sudan and across neighbouring countries. Several countries sharing borders with Sudan were already hosting large numbers of refugees and internally displaced people, and have insufficient and dwindling levels of humanitarian funding.


In addition to the conflict, Sudan experiences extreme weather (including floods and droughts) that is linked to climate change which has affected hundreds of thousands of people across the country. Extreme weather is destroying crops and livestock, making it increasingly difficult for families to eat. 


Ukraine


It has been almost two years since the beginning of the war in Ukraine in February 2022, and people still continue to be forced to leave their homes. 


As of July 2023, 5.1 million people are internally displaced, over 6.2 million refugees from Ukraine have been recorded globally and approximately 17.6 million people need humanitarian assistance. 


The war in Ukraine has also had many negative impacts on global supply chains and the price of food and fuel globally. Attention has also been diverted away from other humanitarian crises in different contexts, many of which suffer enormous funding gaps. 


Syria 


Syria continues to remain one of the world’s largest refugee crises as it enters its thirteenth year of conflict in 2024. More than half of Syria’s pre-war population are displaced from their own homes, with 5.3 million refugees living in neighbouring countries and over 6.8 million internally displaced inside the country. 


Over 90% of Syrians live under the poverty line and more than 2 million Syrian children are still out of school. UNHCR High Commissioner Filippo Grandi calls it "the biggest humanitarian and refugee crisis of our time and a continuing cause for suffering”, as there looks to be no end in sight. 


The vast majority of Syrian refugees live in neighbouring countries, such as Türkiye (formally known as Turkey), Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt.


Lebanon hosts the largest number of refugees per capita in the world – 1.5 million Syrians, which has placed additional pressure on infrastructure, housing prices in various areas and livelihoods, in an already economically delicate environment. 


Meanwhile, in Türkiye, life has become especially difficult for refugees since the earthquake that occurred on February 6th (2023). 


Afghanistan


For more than 40 years, Afghanistan has lived with various clashes and instability, from Soviet and U.S. invasions to civil war, insurgency and Taliban rule. Afghan refugees continue to make up one of the largest displacement situations with 28.3 million people - two-thirds of its population - in need of humanitarian and protection assistance this year. 


More than 8.2 million Afghans have been displaced into neighbouring countries, with an estimated 85% living in Pakistan and Iran.


“We’re now seeing a third generation of Afghan children born in exile,” says Grandi.


There are fears, however, that a further humanitarian crisis could occur within Afghanistan as Pakistan announced in October that undocumented foreigners must leave. An estimated 374,000 people have returned to Afghanistan, which is experiencing temperatures of -4°C in some areas. If left without adequate shelter, many of these returnees who include women, children and the elderly, could lose their lives in the winter conditions.


Greece - where we work


Working within Greece, SolidariTee's partner NGOs have supported people from more than 30 nationalities, including people from all of the contexts above in 2023.


In 2023, 25,490 refugees and asylum-seekers arrived by sea according to official sources. The majority that arrived are from Syria (26%), the State of Palestine (18%), Afghanistan (17%), Somalia (9%), and Eritrea (6%). This number is more than double 2022’s sea arrivals (12,758) and demonstrates how Greece still requires active support. 


There is effectively no state-provided assistance for those submitting their first asylum claim and many find themselves in closed camps or detention centres. 


The work of NGOs in Greece helps to prevent unjust detention and deportation, as well as enable people to gain access to safe accommodation, receive healthcare and have the legal ability to work. 


With media attention dwindling and many major donors pulling funding out of Greece, it remains a largely underfunded humanitarian crisis. 


Yasmin has been volunteering with SolidariTee for 4 years and has held other positions in Oxfam, UN Women UK and Care 4 Calais. She is currently studying MSc International Development at SOAS, University of London.

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