Number of Refugees, Displaced People Reached 65.6 Million in 2016

The number of people forcibly displaced by war, violence, and persecution totaled a record 65.3 million at the end of 2016, a report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees finds.

According to the report, Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2016 (HTML or 68 pages, PDF), 10.3 million people were newly displaced in 2016 — the equivalent of one person every three seconds — including 6.9 million who were internally displaced and 3.4 million refugees and asylum seekers, 75,000 of whom were unaccompanied children seeking asylum in one of seventy countries. The report also notes that the number of refugees hit a record 22.5 million in 2016, with those fleeing the civil war in Syria comprising the largest group, and points to the breakdown of peace talks in South Sudan, where 3.3 million people fled their homes in 2016, as the most significant new factor pushing up the number of refugees.

On a somewhat brighter note, the report found that the number of internally displaced people fell slightly, from 40.8 million at the end of 2015 to 40.3 million at the end of 2016, while the number of asylum seekers dropped from 3.2 million to 2.8 million. In addition, about half a million refugees and 6.5 million internally displaced people were able to return to their home countries and/or regions — albeit under less than ideal circumstances and facing uncertain prospects — while thirty-seven countries accepted a total of 189,300 refugees for resettlement.

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

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"War, Violence, Persecution Push Displacement to New Unprecedented High." United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Press Release 06/19/2017.