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By Will Racke
There number of people displaced by armed conflict or government persecution reached a seven-decade high at the end of 2016, according to the U.N. division responsible for monitoring global refugees.
A record 65.6 million people have been driven from their homes in a series of crises resulting in refugee flows not seen since WWII, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said Monday in its Global Trends report. The total, which includes refugees, asylum seekers and people displaced within the borders of their own countries, was about 300,000 higher than in 2015.
The year-over-year increase was smaller than in recent years, but more than 10 million people were newly displaced in 2016, indicating that the global refugee situation is as volatile as it has ever been.
“By any measure this is an unacceptable number,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a statement accompanying the report. “It speaks louder than ever to the need for solidarity and common purpose in preventing and resolving crises.”
The total refugee population — those seeking safety across international borders — was about 22.5 million, the highest number since the UNHCR was established in 1950 following WWII. Another 40 million people were displaced within the borders of their own countries, about 500,000 fewer than in 2015.
Hotspots continue to produce refugees around the globe, but two conflicts stand out for the number of people who have been forced to flee their home countries, according to the UNHCR report. The war in Syria, now in its seventh year, has created a total of 5.5 million refugees as of 2016. A more recent driver of refugees is the conflict in South Sudan, where a breakdown in peace talks led to an outflow of 737,400 people by the end of last year, the report said.
Syria accounts for by far the largest share of total displaced persons worldwide, with a total of 12 million people displaced internally or living outside the country as refugees. It is followed by Colombia and Afghanistan, which are responsible for 7.7 million and 4.7 million displaced persons, respectively.