Refugee population hits record high
Imagine the entire population of France uprooted from their homes, forced to flee danger, persecution or starvation. The United Nations (UN) refugee agency says more people than that - 65 million - were displaced worldwide at the end of last year, easily setting a new postwar record.
And it warned that European and other rich nations can expect the flow to continue if root causes aren't addressed.
After a year, when more than a million people arrived on European shores, United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) said yesterday - World Refugee Day - that continued conflicts and persecution in places like Syria and Afghanistan fuelled a nearly 10-per cent increase in the total number of refugees and internally displaced people in 2015.
"I hope that the message carried by those forcibly displaced reaches the leaderships: We need action, political action, to stop conflicts," said Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. "The message that they have carried is: 'If you don't solve problems, problems will come to you'."
MORE THAN 60 MILLION
The Geneva-based agency's latest Global Trends Report shows that for the first time since World War II, the 60-million mark was crossed.
"If these 65.3 million persons were a nation, they would make up the 21st largest in the world," the report said.
In stark detail, UNHCR said that, on average, 24 people had been displaced every minute last year - or 34,000 people a day - up from six every minute in 2005. The total number of displaced people has roughly doubled since 1997, and risen by 50 per cent since 2011 alone, when the Syria war began.
About 11.5 million people from Syria have fled their homes: 6.6 million remaining within the war-ravaged country and 4.9 million moving abroad. At the end of last year, more than half of all refugees were from three countries: Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia. More than half of all displaced people were children, UNCHR said.
Turkey was the top host country for the second year running, with 2.5 million refugees - nearly all from neighbouring Syria. Afghanistan's neighbour Pakistan had 1.6 million, while Lebanon, next to Syria, hosted 1.1 million.
"The scale of this human suffering is almost unimaginable; the need for the world to respond is beyond question," said US President Barack Obama, adding that he planned to convene a summit on refugees in September when world leaders meet for the UN General Assembly.