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Global migration spikes due to violence, climate change and economic mismanagement


The latest numbers on global migration - nearly 120 million people were forced to flee their homes last year, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency. Migration experts say that's the largest number ever. Among the reasons are violence, climate change, bad governance and corruption. NPR's Fatma Tanis has more.

FATMA TANIS, BYLINE: The number of people who've been displaced from their homes has been increasing dramatically. This year, in 2024, it's already looking like we're going to pass last year's record.

TARIQ RIEBL: Just a few years ago, we were talking about 60 million being the peak at that time. And we thought that was a horrifying number.

TANIS: That's Tariq Riebl, the global program strategy and innovation director at the Norwegian Refugee Council.

RIEBL: Now, we've basically doubled that in just five, six years. So the trajectory is pointing in the wrong direction.

TANIS: Some of the highest number of refugees and internally displaced people came from Afghanistan, Ukraine, Sudan, the Palestinian territories and Venezuela. Jennifer Wistrand is with the Wilson Center. She studies migration and says this issue doesn't only touch the people who have fled. A huge amount of resources are required to deal with such humanitarian crises, especially by countries receiving refugees.

JENNIFER WISTRAND: You've got Asia, Middle East, South America, Europe and Africa. So there's no place that's going to be immune to forced displacement. So even if one does not have a basic human concern, which hopefully one would, one should think pragmatically that this is something that could come to impact them, their family, their friends or their community.

TANIS: So why is this happening? Well, experts say it's in part because in addition to the increase in conflicts around the world, there's also a trend of intensifying violence. Civilians are increasingly targeted by combatants. So are schools, roads and public health infrastructure in places like Syria, Gaza and Sudan. Ciaran Donnelly is a senior vice president with the International Rescue Committee.

CIARAN DONNELLY: What we're also seeing is a lack of accountability for these breaches of international law. Increasingly, parties to conflict are able to act with real impunity, and that just gives further license for these kinds of abuses, makes it harder to resolve conflicts, and it increases the numbers of people who are fleeing from them. And it reduces the likelihood that people will feel safe to go home.

TANIS: And that's another thing. People are displaced for longer periods of time - 10, 15, even 20 years. Experts say the human impact of that cannot be overestimated.

DONNELLY: So 120 million people is an almost incomprehensible number of people to get your head around. And when people are displaced, they're not able to enjoy the benefits of a stable education or an income. They're not able to make those contributions to society.

TANIS: He says that's 120 million different ways the whole world loses when people's lives are uprooted. Fatma Tanis, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.