19 June 2015

The UNHCR Global Trends annual report, released this week, has revealed that worldwide displacement is at the highest level ever recorded since detailed record-keeping began. War, conflict, persecution, and human rights violations have forced people to leave their homes, with over 59.5 million people exiled by the end of 2014. In particular, UNHCR registered 19.5 million refugees in 2014 (marking an increase from 16.7 million in 2013), 38.2 million internally displaced persons (compared with 33.3 million in 2013) and 1.8 million people awaiting the outcome of claims for asylum over the past year (against 1.2 million in 2013).

In addition, 11 million were newly displaced within the borders of their own country, 2.9 million people became refugees and a record high of nearly 1.7 million people lodged asylum claims on an individual basis this year. Based on those figures, UNHCR estimates that an average of 42,500 people are forced to leave their home every day, and that one in every 122 humans is either a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking asylum.

“Syria is the world’s biggest producer of both internally displaced people (7.6 million) and refugees (3.88 million at the end of 2014)” reported UNHCR. Afghanistan (2.59 million) and Somalia (1.1 million) are respectively the second and third biggest originating countries of refugees and displaced persons. The report notes that poorer states are shouldering most of the responsibility for hosting those who have been forced to abandon their homeland, with 86% of refugees in regions or countries deemed economically less developed, and more than 5.9 million refugees under UNHCR’s mandate residing in countries where the GDP per capita is below USD 5,000.

The country that is hosting the largest number of refugees in relation to its national population is Lebanon, with 232 refugees per 1,000 inhabitants, while Turkey became the largest refugee-hosting country worldwide, with 1.59 million refugees. Much of this is a result of the impact of the continuing conflict in Syria, which remains the main driver of displacement, with one in every five displaced persons worldwide being Syrian. Before the outbreak of the Syrian crisis in 2011, Lebanon was host to 8,000 refugees. It now hosts 1.15 million refugees, stretching the country’s socio-economic capacity to its limits.

The UN High Commissioner, António Guterres, called for an “unprecedented humanitarian response and a renewed global commitment to tolerance and protection for people fleeing conflict and persecution” in this “age of unprecedented mass displacement”, noting that “it is terrifying that on the one hand there is more and more impunity for those starting conflicts, and on the other there is [a] seeming utter inability of the international community to work together to work together to stop wars and build and preserve peace”.


This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 19 June 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.