UN Sees Refugee Resettlement Needs Jumping 20% on Wars, Climate

(Bloomberg) -- The United Nations estimates about 2.9 million refugees will need to be resettled next year, a 20% increase from this year, as conflicts, economic crises and climate change push millions from their homes.

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Refugees from Syria and Afghanistan will make up the bulk of those cases, along with asylum seekers from South Sudan and Myanmar, the UN Refugee Agency, known as UNHCR, said in a report Wednesday. It also projects rising needs for those from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea and other African nations.

The need for resettlement — which the UNHCR defines as the relocation of refugees to a country that has agreed to admit them on a permanent basis — is also seen surging from the Americas “owing to unprecedented levels of displacement in the region.”

“The increase in resettlement needs is also occurring at a time of difficult economic conditions globally, resulting in rising living costs and declining humanitarian aid,” the UNHCR said. “Growing xenophobia and discrimination are also exposing refugees to heightened risks of deportation, violence, exploitation and other human rights violations.”

The report noted displacement has “risen sharply” in the Americas, with asylum applications from Venezuelans, Cubans and others from the region accounting for one-third of all claims worldwide. Most of those migrants are US-bound, the UNHCR said.

With immigration an increasingly contentious issue ahead of the US presidential election, President Joe Biden is shuttering the US-Mexico border to some asylum seekers and is raising the threshold for people to stay in country.

More than 96,000 people were resettled globally in 2023, a 65% jump from the prior year, with the US, Canada, Germany and Australia welcoming the most refugees, according to the report.

Despite the increase, the UNHCR said that only accounted for less than 5% of all migrants who were in need of resettlement. Most of them resort to dangerous immigration pathways on their own or facilitated by smugglers, it said.

Resettlement is among the last steps of the asylum process, and often comes years after being granted refugee status.

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