Monday 5 December 2016

Refugee total hits highest ever level of 65 million - UN

Carla De Wintour

Published 21/06/2016 | 02:30

Displaced people who fled from Islamic State violence receive relief goods during World Refugee Day celebrations at Al-salam refugee camp in Baghdad, Iraq. REUTERS/Ahmed Saad
Displaced people who fled from Islamic State violence receive relief goods during World Refugee Day celebrations at Al-salam refugee camp in Baghdad, Iraq. REUTERS/Ahmed Saad

The number of people displaced by conflict is at the highest level ever recorded, the UN refugee agency has said.

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It estimates that 65.3 million people were either refugees, asylum seekers or internally displaced at the end of 2015, an increase of five million in a year.

This represents one in every 113 people on the planet, according to the UN agency.

Meanwhile, the UN refugee chief has said that a worrying "climate of xenophobia" has taken hold in Europe as it struggles to cope with the migrant crisis.

The influx of people, the biggest since World War Two, has led to greater support for far-right groups and controversial anti-immigration policies.

In its annual report marking World Refugee Day, the UN said it was the first time the number of refugees worldwide had passed the 60 million mark.

More than half - 54pc - of the total number are people from just three countries: Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia.

According to the report, 65.3 million people are refugees, asylum seekers or displaced, with 12.4m of those newly displaced by conflict or persecution in 2015. It also revealed that 24 people a minute were forced to flee in 2015, and that half of all refugees are children under 18.

Read more: Record 65 million people displaced in 2015, says UN

Despite the focus on Europe's migrant crisis, the UN said that 86pc of the world's refugees were being sheltered in low- and middle-income countries.

Turkey is the biggest host country for refugees worldwide, with 2.5 million people, followed by Pakistan and Lebanon.

More than 1,011,700 migrants arrived in Europe by sea last year, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), although other agencies put that number much higher. Some 35,000 arrived by land, the IOM said. The preferred destinations for most were richer northern countries such as Germany and Sweden.

This is reflected in the UN's figures for new asylum applications in 2015, which show Germany was the largest recipient.

The UN refugee chief said European leaders needed to do more to co-ordinate policies and to combat negative stereotypes about refugees: "Those who do the opposite, who stir up public opinion against refugees and migrants, have a responsibility in creating a climate of xenophobia that is very worrying in today's Europe," Filippo Grandi told reporters.

Irish Independent

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