Number of Refugees Hit Record High in 2015, Report Finds

The number of people worldwide driven from their homes by conflict and persecution totaled 65.3 million at the end of 2015, or one person for every 113 people on the planet, a report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees finds.

According to the agency's Global Trends report (68 pages, PDF), the global refugee population — which includes 40.8 million internally displaced persons, 21.3 million refugees in low- and middle-income countries near conflict zones, and 3.2 million asylum-seekers in industrialized countries awaiting decisions on their applications — is the largest since UNHCR began keeping records. It also is larger than the 59.5 million people who were displaced at the end of 2014 and four times the number that it was ten years ago. The report also found that 51 percent of the internally displaced persons and refugees were under the age of 18, with some 98,400 of them unaccompanied or separated children who applied for asylum in 2015.

While forced displacement has been on the rise since the mid-1990s, the report notes that the rate has accelerated over the past five years as a result of smoldering conflicts in countries such as Somalia and Afghanistan; new or reignited conflicts in Syria, Yemen, South Sudan, Burundi, the Central African Republic, and Ukraine; and escalating gang violence in Central America. The report also found that Turkey was host to the largest number of refugees, some 2.5 million, in 2015.

"More people are being displaced by war and persecution and that’s worrying in itself, but the factors that endanger refugees are multiplying too," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. "At sea, a frightening number of refugees and migrants are dying each year; on land, people fleeing war are finding their way blocked by closed borders. Closing borders does not solve the problem....The willingness of nations to work together not just for refugees but for the collective human interest is what's being tested today, and it’s this spirit of unity that badly needs to prevail."

"Global Forced Displacement Hits Record High." United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Press Release 06/20/2016. "Global Trends." United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Report 06/20/2016.