Record 68.5 million displaced in 2017: United Nations refugee agency

Elias Hubbard
June 20, 2018

A record 68.5 million people have been forced to flee their homes due to war, violence and persecution, notably in places such as Myanmar and Syria, the United Nations has said.

In 2017, one person fled their home every two seconds due to man-made tragedies with the total number of forcibly displaced people nearly equalling the entire population of Thailand, said the UN Refugee Agency's annual Global Trends Report, released on Tuesday on the eve of World Refugee Day.

Internal displacement was largely caused by "armed conflict, generalized violence, or human rights violations", UNHCR stated.

But UNHCR, Grandi's agency, said the figures debunked the flawed perception among some that a refugee crisis has affected more developed countries in the "Global North".

But around 70 percent of that number are people from just 10 countries, he told reporters in Geneva ahead of the report's launch.

"This is because of protracted conflicts and lack of solutions for those conflicts that continue, continuous pressure on civilians in countries of conflict that pushed them to leave their homes and new or aggravating crises, like the Rohingya crisis".

Even as 5 million people returned to their country of origin, 16.2 million people were newly displaced around the world previous year. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees have fled from Myanmar into Bangladesh, and millions of refugees have fled from brutal conflicts in Congo and South Sudan. There were also 2,100 claims from the United States, but these were mostly US -born children of third-country nationals who were living in the United States before seeking protection in Canada.

By the end of 2017, there were some 40 million IDPs worldwide, down slightly from previous years, with Colombia, Syria and Democratic Republic of Congo accounting for the greatest numbers. While almost 97,000 refugees were resettled there in 2016, the number fell to just 33,400 past year.

That is almost 3 million more than in 2016, and "the highest known total to date", it said.

As the global numbers increase, many countries have become increasingly hostile to refugees.

Another 6.2 million Syrians are internally displaced.

The report highlighted that conflicts remained a strong driver of displacement, with around five million people returning to their countries of origin in 2017.

In this November 29, 2015 photo, an internally displaced girl peeks from a tent after her family left their village in Rodat district of Jalalabad, Afghanistan. Numerous host countries are "desperately poor and receive little support to care for these populations".

The increase was due mainly to births and more Afghans being granted asylum in Germany, UNHCR said.

For the fourth year running, Turkey was again the country with the largest number of refugees - mostly Syrians - at 3.5 million at the end of 2017. Although Europe hosted 30.7 per cent of the refugee population, more than half of them were in Turkey.

Mr Lam said the number of countries taking in large numbers of displaced people is relatively few. "Many of them are still there now", he said. The UNHCR found that the majority of displaced persons remained closer to home, with four out of five refugees remaining in countries next door to their own.

"We have to end this race to the bottom, and rather let us be inspired by generous recipient countries like Uganda, where vulnerable refugees are being protected", he said.

Turkey was hosting by far the largest number of refugees, with 3.5 million registered there by the end of 2017, a lot of them Syrians.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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