Record 65.3m refugees displaced by conflict: UN

By the close of 2015, one in every 113 people globally was either an asylum-seeker, internally displaced or a refugee, according to the UN refugee agency

A record 65.3 million people are on the run worldwide as protracted humanitarian crises grind on and political gridlock slows help for refugees.

By end-2015, one in every 113 people globally was either an asylum-seeker, internally displaced or a refugee, up from 1 in 122 in 2014, according to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.

Some 24 people were forced to flee from their homes each minute of every day last year, a four-fold increase in 10 years, according to the latest UN global trends report.

It marks the first time in the UN’s history that the number of globally displaced has crossed the 60 million mark.

“More people are being displaced by war and persecution and that’s worrying in itself, but the factors that endanger refugees are multiplying too,” said UN high commissioner for refugees Filippo Grandi.

“The willingness of nations to work together not just for refugees but for the collective human interest is what’s being tested today, and it’s this spirit of unity that badly needs to prevail.”

Last year’s UN report had already hit a record high, as the numbers of the world’s displaced hit 59.5 million. In 2015, 5.8 million more people were added to bring the total to 65.3 million. More than half the world’s refugees are children.

While the rate of increase in displacement has slowed from the past two years, a growing number of refugees are being left in limbo, warned the UN. Only 201,000 refugees were able to return home in 2015 – mainly to Afghanistan, Sudan and Somalia – a very small proportion of the overall refugee population.

Three countries produce half the world’s 21.3 million refugees, said the study. Syria at 4.9 million, Afghanistan at 2.7 million and Somalia at 1.1 million together accounted for more than half those under UNHCR’s mandate.

New or reignited conflicts are occurring more frequently, the report noted. Returning violence in South Sudan, Yemen, Burundi and Ukraine added to the tally.

For the second year running, Turkey hosted the largest number of refugees worldwide, with 2.5 million people. The Syrian crisis continued to put a strain on neighbouring countries as the conflict entered its fifth year in 2015, with tiny Lebanon taking in the most refugees compared to its population.

“Governments worldwide are displaying paralysis and renouncement of responsibility,” said Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council. “We must become better at lifting people out of the displacement statistics and offer solutions to men, women and children, who have been forced to flee war and conflict. They need to be able to get on with their normal lives.”

Photo credit: UNHCR/ Yahya Arhab