2020: The year a pandemic collided with global refugee crises

When fears about the coronavirus pandemic started to grip the world, aid workers and activists worried for refugees. Crammed into tight spaces with little access to medical care and basic sanitation, how would they be able to create distance between each another, wash their hands regularly, get face masks?

The conversation soon turned. When, it was assumed, rather than if, the virus reached refugee camps, how would they cope? And would governments isolate them further from society? It was a disaster waiting to happen.

Fortunately, reports of refugees dying of coronavirus have been rare and the pandemic has not ripped through dense camps to the extent that was anticipated.

But 2020 has not been kind to people trying to flee war and persecution.

Across the world, more than 3,200 people have died while making perilous journeys, most of them drowning. Fresh refugee crises are brewing, from the Spanish Canary Islands to Sudan. And while many may have escaped the physical threats of coronavirus, the pandemic has been used as a political weapon against them.

Refugees this year have been stranded at sea in the Bay of Bengal and the Mediterranean as governments refused them, sometimes for months, risking hunger, dehydration and ultimately, death.

In September, a huge fire gutted Moria, the camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, home to 13,000 people and known for its notoriously bad conditions. Dead rats were found in the ashes.

A month later, 140 refugees perished off the Senegalese coast, deaths that failed to make headlines with the world’s attention still firmly on the pandemic.

Al Jazeera asked refugees, grassroots groups, international human rights and organisations, and photojournalists to reflect on the past year:

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