Afghan refugees protest outside UNHCR office New Delhi, India, in June 2019 | Photo: EPA/Rejat Gupta
Afghan refugees protest outside UNHCR office New Delhi, India, in June 2019 | Photo: EPA/Rejat Gupta

The number of resettled refugees is expected to be the lowest in almost two decades this year, according to the UN refugee agency. Roughly 15,000 refugees were resettled between January and September, compared to 50,000 during the same period in 2019.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR warned, in a statement published on Thursday, that the number of refugees resettled in 2020 would be very small compared to previous years.

Only 15,425 refugees were resettled from January to the end of September of this year, compared to 50,086 over the same period last year, the UN agency said.

Coronavirus pandemic

This is in large part due to the coronavirus pandemic -- many countries suspended resettlement activities following the outbreak of COVID-19.

"We are dealing with a disappointingly low resettlement ceiling to begin with -- a quota of less than 50,000 for the entire year -- and this was further impacted by COVID-19 delaying departures and pausing some states' resettlement programs," UNHCR's Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Gillian Triggs said.

Of the refugees that were resettled this year, Syrians comprised the bulk (41%), followed by Congolese (16%). Others were from 47 countries of origin, including Iraq, Myanmar and Afghanistan.

UNHCR: More resettlements needed

UNHCR said it is "urging states to resettle as many refugees as possible in 2020 in order not to lose those resettlement opportunities for refugees, and to maintain resettlement quotas for 2021."

"Expanding safe and legal pathways to protection, including through resettlement, saves refugees' lives and it can also mitigate their resort to dangerous journeys by land or sea," Triggs said.

 

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