A record 65.6 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced from their homes owing to conflict or persecution by the end of 2016, the United Nations said.
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The number marks a jump of 300,000 from the end of 2015, according to a new report released by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Monday.
This is “the highest figure since we started recording these figures”, UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi told reporters ahead of the report launch.
“By any measure, this is an unacceptable number, and it speaks louder than ever to the need for solidarity and common purpose in preventing and resolving crises,” he said.
The figures released ahead of World Refugee Day on Tuesday showed that 10.3 million of the world’s displaced people fled their homes last year alone, including 3.4 million who crossed international borders to become refugees.
“This equates to one person becoming displaced every three seconds – less than the time it takes to read this sentence,” UNHCR pointed out in a statement.
At the end of 2016, there were about 40.3 million internally displaced people in the world, down slightly from 40.8 million a year earlier, with Syria, Iraq and Colombia accounting for the greatest numbers.
Another 22.5 million people – half of them children – were registered as refugees last year, the UNHCR report showed, pointing out that this is “the highest level ever recorded”.
Syrians continued to be the largest forcibly displaced population, with 12 million people at the end of 2016.
Syria’s six-year conflict alone has sent more than 5.5 million people seeking safety in other countries, including 825,000 last year alone, accounting for the world’s largest group of refugees.
Along with the 6.3 million Syrians displaced inside the country, these numbers show that nearly two thirds of all Syrians have been forced from their homes, the report said.
The Syrian conflict, which has killed more than 320,000 people, “is becoming a forgotten crisis”, he warned.
The UN refugee chief also voiced alarm over the rapidly deteriorating situation in South Sudan, which he said was currently the world’s “fastest growing refugee crisis and displacement crisis”.
South Sudan’s civil war, which began in December 2013, has left tens of thousands dead and forced a total of 3.7 million people from their homes – nearly a third of the population.
Overall, the refugee population from the world’s youngest country swelled 85 percent last year to reach 1.4 million by the end of 2016, the UNHCR report showed.
Besides Syria and South Sudan, Monday’s report also pointed to large-scale displacement in Afghanistan, Iraq and Sudan.
And nearly 70 years after Palestinians first fled today’s Israel, some 5.3 million Palestinians are currently living as refugees – the highest level ever recorded, UNHCR said.
The report showed despite huge focus on Europe’s refugee crisis, it is the poorer countries that host most of the world’s refugees.
For the third consecutive year, Turkey hosted the largest number of refugees worldwide, with 2.9 million people.