The UN High Commission for Refugees releases annual survey on the global refugee situation. Years of war in Syria, conflicts in South Sudan and elsewhere have pushed the number of refugees around the world to an all-time high.

South Sudanese refugees carry meals served at the Palabek Refugee Settlement Camp in Lamwo district, Uganda, June 16, 2017.
South Sudanese refugees carry meals served at the Palabek Refugee Settlement Camp in Lamwo district, Uganda, June 16, 2017.

Disastrous conflicts, violence and persecution in various places including Syria and South Sudan left a devastating 65.6 million people displaced from their homes by the end of 2016, the UN said on Monday.

The number is 300,000 higher than the number of displaced by the end of 2015 and 6 million higher than that by the end of 2014, according to 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.

10 million displaced in 2016

The figures released before World Refugee Day on Tuesday showed that 10.3 million of the world's displaced people fled their homes in 2016 alone, among which 3.4 million crossed international borders to become refugees.

"This equates to one person becoming displaced every three seconds – less than the time it takes to read this sentence," UNHCR pointed out in a statement.

Most people who have been forced from their homes seek refuge within their own country and are defined as internally displaced people, or IDPs. At the end of 2016, there were some 40.3 million IDPs in the world, down slightly from 40.8 million a year earlier, with Syria, Iraq and Colombia accounting for the greatest numbers.

Another 22.5 million – of which half were children – were registered as refugees last year, the UNHCR report showed, pointing out that this is "the highest level ever recorded."

Syria's six-year war

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

Along with the 6.3 million Syrians displaced inside the country, these numbers show that almost two-thirds of all Syrians have been forced from their homes, the report said.

As the Syrian civil war continues, desperately needed funding for humanitarian aid in the country has begun to decrease, Grandi said, expressing his grief that very little of the billions promised at an international donor's conference in Brussels in April had so far materialised.

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

South Sudan, "the fastest growing displacement crisis"

The UN refugee chief meanwhile voiced most alarm over the rapidly deteriorating situation in South Sudan, which he said was currently the world's "fastest growing refugee crisis and displacement crisis."

South Sudan's civil war, which began in December 2013, has left tens of thousands dead and forced a total of 3.7 million people from their homes – nearly a third of the population.

Overall, the refugee population from the world's youngest country swelled 85 percent last year to reach 1.4 million by the end of 2016, the UNHCR report showed.

And that number has ballooned by a further half million people since then, the agency said, stressing the most of the refugees had left since the "disastrous breakdown of peace efforts" last July.

Syria and South Sudan were not the only countries where people were being displaced altogether, with Monday's report also pointing to large-scale uprooting in Afghanistan, Iraq and Sudan, just to name a few.

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 a huge focus on Europe's migrant crisis, it is poorer countries that host most of the world's refugees.

A full 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."

Source: AFP