POLITICS & INSTITUTIONS - ECONOMY

Record levels of refugees and displaced persons



On Monday 19 June, the UNHCR released a report on the global trends, in which it states that 65.6 million people were uprooted from their homes by conflict and persecution at the end of 2016. UNHCR

On Monday 19 June, the UNHCR released a report on the global trends, in which it states that 65.6 million people were uprooted from their homes by conflict and persecution at the end of 2016. UNHCR

The UNHCR’s annual “global trends” report found that an unprecedented 65.6 million people were uprooted from their homes by conflict and persecution at the end of 2016.

This is an increase of 300,000 compared to 2015.

“War, violence and persecution have uprooted more men, women and children around the world than at any time in the seven-decade history of UNHCR,”

the report states.

On average, 20 people were driven from their homes every minute last year, or one every three seconds--less than the time it takes to read this sentence.

The UN high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi, stated: “By any measure this is an unacceptable number.”

In each of the past five years, annual increases to the global total displacement have been in the millions. While the 2016 total is high--representing an enormous number of people needing protection worldwide--it also shows that growth in displacement slowed last year.

The total figure includes 40.3 million people uprooted within the borders of their own countries, about 500,000 fewer than in 2015. Meanwhile, the total number seeking asylum globally was 2.8 million, about 400,000 fewer than in the previous year.

However, the total number seeking safety across international borders as refugees topped 22.5 million, the highest number seen since UNHCR was founded in 1950.

Syria has highest levels of displacement and refugees

In terms of overall displacement, Syria still accounts for the biggest numbers, with 12 million people (65 per cent of the population) displaced internally or living outside the country as refugees. The conflict in Syria was the world’s biggest producer of refugees (5.5 million).

Leaving aside the long-standing Palestinian refugee situation, Colombians (7.7 million) and Afghans (4.7 million) remained the second- and third-largest displaced populations, followed by Iraqis (4.2 million).

However, in 2016 the biggest new factor was South Sudan, where the disastrous break-off of peace efforts in July contributed to an outflow of 737,400 people by the end of the year. That number has continued to rise during the first half of 2017. In total, about 3.3 million South Sudanese had fled their homes by the end of 2016, in what has become the fastest-growing displacement of people in the world.

Half of refugees are children

Children make up half the world’s refugees.

The report also showed that, worldwide, most refugees--84 per cent--were in developing or middle-income countries at the end of 2016. A third (4.9 million people) are hosted by the world’s least developed countries.

“We have to do better for these people,” Grandi said. “For a world in conflict, what is needed is determination and courage, not fear.”