UN: Record 65m people displaced worldwide

Persecution and conflict in Syria and Afghanistan, and elsewhere, raised the number of refugees and internally displaced people worldwide to a record 65.3m in 2015, says the UN refugee agency.

That’s an almost 10% increase on 2014, which had the highest number of refugees since the Second World War, with 60m displaced people.

Last year, Europe saw the arrival of large numbers of migrants, the UN refugee agency said in unveiling its annual ‘Global Trends Report’.

The Geneva-based agency urged world leaders to do more to end the wars that are driving the exodus of people from their homelands.

“I hope that the message carried by those forcibly displaced reaches the leaderships: we need action, political action, to stop conflicts,” said Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

“The message that they have carried is, ‘If you don’t solve problems, problems will come to you’.”

With stark detail, UNHCR said that, on average, 24 people were displaced every minute of every day last year — or 34,000 people a day — up from six a minute in 2005.

Global displacement has doubled since 1997, and risen by 50% since 2011, when the Syria war began.

Half of the refugees came from three countries: Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia.

Turkey was the “top host” country for the second year running, taking in 2.5m people, nearly all from neighbouring Syria.

Afghan neighbour, Pakistan, took 1.6m, while Lebanon, next to Syria, hosted 1.1m.

Mr Grandi said politicians and advocacy groups face daunting challenges helping the largest subset of displaced people — 40.8m internally displaced in countries in conflict.

Another 21.3m were refugees and 3.2m were seeking asylum.

More than a million people fled to Europe last year, causing a political crisis in the EU.

Mr Grandi called on countries to fight the xenophobia that has accompanied the rise in refugee populations, and criticised physical barriers — like fences erected by some European countries — as well as legislative ones that limit access to richer, more peaceful EU states.

Such European policies were “spreading a negative example around the world”, he said.

“There is no plan B for Europe in the long run,” Mr Grandi said. “Europe will continue to receive people seeking asylum. Their numbers may vary ... but it is inevitable.”

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