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Ukrainian refugees arrive in Krakow

Ukrainian citizens stand in line at the Consulate General of Ukraine in Krakow, Poland on March 9, 2022. Russia's invasion of Ukraine has caused a mass exodus of refugees to Poland. (Photo: Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

In 'Staggering Milestone,' Over 100 Million People Displaced Worldwide

"This is not a refugee crisis—refugees are not the cause," said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres. "This is a political crisis, and it will only be solved with solidarity and political will."

Julia Conley

The number of people who have been forced to flee their homes has crossed 100 million for the first time in recorded history, the United Nations reported Monday, with the crisis driven largely by violent conflicts including the war in Ukraine.

The U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said the world has reached a "staggering milestone" and called on global policymakers to alleviate the crisis by stopping its root causes, including political, religious, gender, and racial persecution; hunger; the climate crisis; and war.

"One hundred million is a stark figure—sobering and alarming in equal measure. It's a record that should never have been set."

"One hundred million is a stark figure—sobering and alarming in equal measure. It's a record that should never have been set," said Filippo Grandi, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. "This must serve as a wake-up call to resolve and prevent destructive conflicts, end persecution, and address the underlying causes that force innocent people to flee their homes."

The number of people who have been forced to leave their homes now represents 1% of the global population and is equivalent to the population of the 14th largest country in the world, according to the UNHCR.

The agency will release full current global, national, and regional data next month about forced displacement; last year, the U.N. reported that "close to 60 million" children were among the world's refugee population and that more children had been displaced than ever before.

The population of forcibly displaced people includes 53.2 million people who have been forced to flee to other parts of their home countries, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center.

The war in Ukraine has intensified the global crisis since Russia began its invasion in February. More than 6.5 million Ukrainians have fled the country since the war began, with many traveling to neighboring countries including Poland, Romania, and Hungary.

At the end of 2021, the number of worldwide refugees stood at about 90 million, driven by violence and conflicts in countries including Ethiopia, Afghanistan, and Myanmar.

António Guterres, secretary-general of the U.N., said Monday that the term "refugee crisis" is a misnomer.

"This is a political crisis, and it will only be solved with solidarity and political will," said Guterres.

Grandi noted that the populations and governments of several countries have shown solidarity with Ukrainian refugees in recent months, with Poland welcoming 3.5 million displaced people and Romania welcoming nearly one million.

"Compassion is alive and we need a similar mobilization for all crises around the world," he said. "But ultimately, humanitarian aid is a palliative, not a cure. To reverse this trend, the only answer is peace and stability so that innocent people are not forced to gamble between acute danger at home or precarious flight and exile."

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