UN report reveals highest-ever level of global displaced people

20 Jun 16

One in every 113 people in the world was a refugee in 2015, according to new figures released today by the United Nations’ refugee agency.


The figures were included in the UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) annual report on global trends in displacement, published to coincide with ‘World Refugee Day’.

According to the report, this was the “highest level ever recorded” of forced displacement, and represented “immense human suffering”.

A rise in conflict and persecution, an increase in how long such crises last, and a slowdown in the speed at which solutions are found for displaced people, pushed the number of refugees up by almost six million in the 12 months since 2014.

Last year, there were 65.3 million reported refugees in the world – marking the first time that the figure has surpassed 60 million.

That equates to 24 people displaced every minute, compared to six people per minute 10 years ago.

The UN’s high commissioner for refugees Filippo Grandi added that the “factors that endanger refugees are multiplying too”.

He said: “At sea, a frightening number of refugees and migrants are dying each year; on land, people fleeing war are finding their way blocked by closed borders. Politics is gravitating against asylum in some countries.”

Last week medical charity Médecins Sans Frontiéres (MSF) announced it will decline European Union aid funding, in protest at the bloc’s treatment of mostly Syrian refugees.

Having escaped a brutal conflict in their own country, many have found themselves stranded in Greece or returned to Turkey under the EU’s controversial deal with Ankara.

Jerome Oberreit, secretary general of MSF, said the organisation will not take funding from institutions and governments whose policies “do so much harm” and are focused on deterrence rather than providing assistance and protection to those fleeing war.

The UNHCR said Syria is the biggest source of the world’s refugees, with 4.9 million of its citizens now seeking safety elsewhere, followed by Afghanistan (2.7 million) and Somalia (1.1 million). Together, these three nations account for more than half of the refugees under the UNHCR’s mandate worldwide.

Colombia had the largest number of people displaced within its own borders, at 6.9 million, followed by Syria (6.6 million) and Iraq (4.4 million). Yemen was the biggest producer of new internal displacement last year, with 2.5 million more people, or 9% of its population, fleeing their homes.

The report highlighted that while Europe descended into chaos and furore amid the biggest refugee crisis in the region since the Second World War, the majority of the world’s refugees are in the global south.

Of those covered by the agency’s mandate, 86% were found in low- and middle-income countries, rising to over 90% if Palestinian refugees covered by a UNHCR sister agency are included. Of all the regions in the world, Europe was the least affected.

Turkey was the biggest host, with 2.5 million refugees, followed by Lebanon (1.1 million), Iran (979,400), Ethiopia (736,100) and Jordan (664,100). 

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