Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began a week ago, about one million people have fled the now war-ravaged country in an exodus that has no precedent in this century for its speed, according to the UN refugee agency.
The tally of refugees from United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)amounts to more than 2 per cent of Ukraine's population on the move in under a week.
The World Bank counted the population at 44 million at the end of 2020. The UN agency has predicted that up to 4 million people could eventually leave Ukraine but cautioned that even that projection could be revised upward.
According to the UNHCR, there are 26 million refugees worldwide who have had to leave their home country due to conflict, natural disasters, poverty and other reasons. About 1.4 million refugees still need resettlement.
In 2019, more than two-thirds (68 per cent) of all refugees came from just five countries: Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Myanmar.
In the light of the unfolding crisis of in Ukraine, let’s take a look at the other such refugee crises in the world of similar magnitude:
The civil war in Syria that erupted in 2011 has caused the largest refugee outflow at more than 6.8 million people as of 2021, according to UNHCR figures.
Even at its peak, the rate of refugee outflow was still lower than Ukraine. In early 2013, it took at least three months for one million refugees to leave the country.
Syrians who fled the country found refuge in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, and Turkey, which also hosts the largest refugee community.
The number of Syrians displaced within their own country nearly matches the number of refugees. While the conflict has driven more than 6.6 million people from their homes and forced them to resettle, nearly 2.9 million remain in hard-to-reach areas.
Venezuelan migration is the largest recorded refugee crisis in the Americas, which started during the presidencies of Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro.
According to UNHCR figures, a total of 5.1 million Venezuelans have left the country as of mid-2021, including 186,800 refugees, 952,300 asylum-seekers and 3.9 million Venezuelans displaced abroad.
Afghanistan continues to be among the worst-affected regions with respect to its refugee crisis.
From the Soviet invasion in 1979 til the US-led invasion in 2001, about 2.6 million Afghans have migrated to different parts of the world, mostly to the neighbouring countries of Pakistan and Iran.
According to UNHCR, over 2.2 million people have fled South Sudan till mid-2021. Due to a history of prolonged conflicts and ecosystem mismanagement that have resulted in violence and famine.
Due to the South Sudanese Civil War, which began in 2013, at least 2 million people were displaced inside the country.
Due to sectarian violence in Myanmar, over 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims have fled the country since 2017. While a large number of Rohinyga refugees fled to the neighbouring Bangladesh, others travelled to other Southeast Asian countries, including Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand.
Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar came to be known as the world’s largest refugee camp for housing Rohingyas.
What does UNHCR data say
– Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees, with 3.7 million people. Colombia is second with more than 1.7 million, including Venezuelans displaced abroad as of mid-2021.
– An estimated 35 million (42 per cent) of the 82.4 million forcibly displaced people are children below 18 years of age till the end of 2020.
– Between 2018 and 2020, an average of between 290,000 and 340,000 children were born into a refugee life per year.
– Data on some 4.3 million stateless people residing in 93 countries was reported as of mid-2021. The true global figure is estimated to be significantly higher.
With inputs from agencies