MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The number of displaced people in the world has risen to a new record high due to war, persecution, and violence, according to the latest report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
The UN Refugee Agency’s Global Trends report says there were 65.6 million people forcibly displaced worldwide at the end of 2016 – some 300,000 more than the previous year. The total number represents the enormous population in need of protection by international agencies and states, according to the UNHCR.
Of this number, 22.5 million are refugees – those forced to leave their country; 40.3 million are displaced persons (IDPs) or those who find temporary shelter within the same country; and 2.8 million are asylum seekers – people who have fled their country and are seeing international protection as refugees.
“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, and ensuring together that the world’s refugees, internally displaced and asylum seekers are properly protected and cared for while solutions are pursued,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.
The figures released ahead of World Refugee Day, which falls on Tuesday, June 20, showed that a full 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 3 seconds – less than the time it takes to read this sentence,” UNHCR pointed out in a statement.
Protecting refugees from persecution, violence, and sickness adds to the immense human cost of war and conflict globally. But the UN Refugee Agency says this should not deter governments from taking concrete action today.
“We have to do better for these people. For a world in conflict, what is needed is determination and courage, not fear,” added Grandi. (READ: More solidarity with refugees needed as forced displacement rises)
The conflict in Syria has produced the largest number of refugees at 5.5 million and displaced people overall at 12 million people. The civil war, compounded by the battle to defeat the ISIS group, has devastated cities and left millions of Syrians vulnerable and without homes.
Children, who make up half the world’s refugees, continue to bear a disproportionate burden of the suffering, mainly because of their greater vulnerability. Tragically, 75,000 asylum claims were received from children travelling alone or separated from their parents. The report says even this number is likely to underestimate the true figure.
The report also pointed out that, despite huge focus on Europe’s migrant crisis, it is poorer countries that host most of the world’s refugees.
A full 84 percent of refugees are living in low- and middle-income countries like Lebanon, Pakistan, and Ethiopia the UNHCR said, decrying a “huge imbalance”.
The impression that refugees mainly go to wealthy countries “is a complete myth,” he said.
In the Philippines, more than 87,400 people are living in IDP-like conditions and are being protected by the UNHCR. Some 255,600 former IDPs have returned to their homes in 2016.
But the number of IDPs could climb much higher for 2017. The armed conflict in Marawi between Maute fighters and the Philippine military has displaced at least 70,000 people this year.
UNHCR produces its Global Trends report annually ahead of World Refugee Day. – with reports from Agence France-Presse / Rappler.com
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, encourages Filipinos to stand in solidarity#WithRefugees and with families torn apart by war, conflict and violence. To learn more how you can help, please visit: http://donate.unhcr.ph/refugees.