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Record 65.6 million people displaced worldwide

Europe's largest migrant crisis since World War II has seen more than 10,000 migrants perish since 2014, UN refugee agency UNHCR says
AFP/File
South Sudan is one of the fastest growing refugee populations, half the population is in need of urgent aid

Devastating conflicts, violence and persecution in places like Syria and South Sudan left a record 65.6 million people uprooted from their homes by the end of 2016, the United Nations said Monday.

"At the end of 2016, there were 65.6 million people forcibly displaced worldwide," the UN refugee agency said in a statement, stressing that this was a "new unprecedented high."

That number marks a jump of just 300,000 from the end of 2015, but is more than six million higher than at the end of 2014, according to a fresh report published by the UN refugee agency.

This is "the highest figure since we started recording these figures," UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi told reporters ahead of the report launch.

"By any measure, this is an unacceptable number, and it speaks louder than ever to the need for solidarity and common purpose in preventing and resolving crises," he said.

The agency's Global Trend Report was published just ahead of World Refugee Day on Tuesday, illustrating several facts and figures about the current refugee crisis.

The "unprecedented high" reveals that one in every 113 people worldwide is displaced and a person was displaced every three seconds in 2016, half of which were children under age eighteen.

Of the record 65.6 million people forcibly displaced 22.5 million were refugees, 40.3 million were uprooted within their countries and 2.8 million asylum seekers and over half come from just three countries: Syria, Afghanistan, and South Sudan.

One of the fastest growing refugee populations was sparked by conflict in South Sudan after Africa's longest civil war left 2.2 million people displaced in 2011.

ISAAC KASAMANI (AFP)

South Sudan, the world's youngest nation, descended into war again in December 2013, leaving tens of thousands dead and more than three million people displaced.

The UN refugee chief voiced most alarm over the rapidly deteriorating situation which he said was currently the world's "fastest growing refugee crisis and displacement crisis," and has swelled by 85 percent last year.

More than 52,000 South Sudanese fled to Uganda in January alone reported the UN, as fighting and mass atrocities continued. More than six million people -- half of South Sudan's population -- are in need of urgent aid and humanitarian organizations expect the number to rise by 20 to 30 percent in 2017.

In Syria, a six-year civil war has ravaged the country, forcing nearly two-thirds of its population to flee, according to the report.

Forgotten crisis?

Syria alone has sent more than 5.5 million people seeking safety in other countries, including 825,000 just last year, making it the world's biggest producer of refugees.

As the Syrian civil war rages on, desperately needed funding for humanitarian aid in the country has begun to dwindle, Grandi said, lamenting that very little of the billions promised at an international donor's conference in Brussels in April had so far materialized.

The Syrian conflict, which has killed more than 320,000 people, "is becoming a forgotten crisis," warned Grandi.

Syria and South Sudan were far from the only countries where people were being uprooted en masse, with Monday's report also pointing to large-scale displacement in Afghanistan, Iraq and Sudan, just to name a few.

CARLO HERMANN (AFP/File)

And nearly 70 years after Palestinians first fled today's Israel, some 5.3 million Palestinians are currently living as refugees -- the highest level ever recorded, UNHCR said.

Monday's report also pointed out that, despite huge focus on Europe's migrant crisis, it is poorer countries that host most of the world's refugees.

84 percent of refugees are living in low- and middle-income countries, UNHCR said, blaming this "huge imbalance" on "the continuing lack of consensus internationally when it comes to refugee hosting and the proximity of many poor countries to regions of conflict."

According to the report, Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees at 2.9 million, followed by Pakistan, and then Lebanon.

Relative to its population, Lebanon cares for the largest number of refugees with one in six, followed by Jordan with one in 11, and then Turkey where one in 28 people is a refugee.

(Staff with AFP)

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