Conflict-Driven Refugee Population Nears 60 Million Worldwide

According to the latest United Nations report, World at War, globally, one in every 122 humans is now either a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking asylum.  The report released by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) explains that the world’s refugee population has hit an all-time high with nearly 60 million people (up from 37.5 million a decade ago) displaced by war, persecution, and conflict. If this staggering number were a country it would rank as the 24th most populous country in the world.

The number of refugees is the highest it’s been since World War II and is largely the result of 15 conflicts that have emerged in the last five years. Of those 15 conflicts, eight are in Africa, three in the Middle East, one is in Europe and three are in Asia. But the impact of these conflicts extends beyond war-torn areas themselves, potentially affecting the stability of the countries taking in large groups of displaced people. As such, there has been some recent backlash from countries against incoming waves of displaced people. Earlier this year, boats filled with refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh were turned away from Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia due to lack of resources to host refugees. Turkey houses the largest refugee population in the world with an estimated 1.9 million refugees located within the country in 2015.

Where are all these displaced people coming from? Since 2011, the largest contributor to displacement has been Syria. Every day last year 42,500 people became refugees, asylum seekers, or internally displaced. Behind Syria, Afghanistan (2.59 million) and Somalia (1.1 million) are the next biggest refugee source countries. According to the Global Trends report, in 2014, 13.9 million people became newly displaced with 19.5 million refugees worldwide. Perhaps the most troubling statistic is that nearly half of the refugee population are children. In addition, we’re seeing the lowest numbers of refugees returning home with the average down from 450,000 in previous years to 126,000 this year.

In the words of UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres: “For an age of unprecedented mass displacement, we need an unprecedented humanitarian response and a renewed global commitment to tolerance and protection for people fleeing conflict and persecution.”