Report released on World Refugee Day reveals 12.4 million people were newly displaced in 2015 as a result of persecution, war and human rights abuses.

A Syrian refugee holds a baby in a Bulgarian refugee camp set up in the town of Harmanli, southeast of Sofia, on November 12, 2013.
A Syrian refugee holds a baby in a Bulgarian refugee camp set up in the town of Harmanli, southeast of Sofia, on November 12, 2013.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, unveiled its annual report Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2015 on Monday, highlighting that global forced displacement reached new heights in 2015. As a result of persecution, war, or human rights violations, 65.3 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide, a 5.8 million increase from 2015.

The current number of refugees and those displaced is the "highest since the aftermath of World War II." The Geneva-based agency called on leaders from all over the world to do more to end conflicts and wars that are driving people from their homelands.

The African continent was the most affected, in 2015 nearly 16 million people in Africa were either displaced or forced to flee their homelands. This is an increase of 1.5 million from 2014.

"By the end of 2015 there were close to 5 million Syrian refugees worldwide," the report stated.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said, "I hope the message carried by those forcibly displaced reaches the leaderships: We need action, political action, to stop conflicts. The message that they have sent is: ‘If you don't solve problems, problems will come to you'."

The annual report talks about three main causes behind the increase in forced displacements. Situations such as the long-term conflict in Afghanistan that cause massive refugee influx are lasting longer, "dramatic new or reignited situations" like the conflicts in Syria and South Sudan are occurring more often, and "the rate at which solutions are being found for refugees and internally displaced people has been on a falling trend since the end of the Cold War."

According to the report, a staggering 24 people were displaced every minute of every day last year, "some 34,000 people per day."

Where are the refugees?

Turkey hosted the highest number of refugees for the second year in a row with over 2.5 million people. Most are Syrians fleeing the brutal civil war which has been going on for at least 5 years.

Pakistan hosted 1.6 million people, while Lebanon hosted 1.1 million refugees. Additionally, over a million people fled to Europe in 2015, causing a political crisis in the EU.

Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Eritrea represent 84 percent of arrivals by sea and land in the Mediterranean. At least 1,015,078 people seeking refuge arrived by sea in 2015. Over 3,700 people died or are still missing in the Mediterranean Sea.

Around 2.45 million asylum or refugee-status applications were made in 2015. "Germany was the largest single recipient of new asylum applications, with 441,900 registered during 2015."

However, by the end of 2015 3.2 milion individuals were still waiting for a decision on their asylum claims, "a figure that includes applicants at any stage of the asylum procedure."

Shrinking spaces

The report stated that 2015 in particular "saw increased border controls and fences erected along borders between several countries in an effort to thwart the movement of refugees into their countries and across Europe."

According to Grandi, policies such as erecting razor wire fences on borders and legislative policies that limit access to richer, more peaceful EU states were "spreading a negative example around the world."

He added, "There is no plan B for Europe in the long run; Europe will continue to receive people seeking asylum. Their numbers may vary… but it is inevitable."

In a statement released on the UNHCR website on Monday, he said, "Instead of burden sharing, we see borders closing, instead of political will there is political paralysis." Grandi expressed hope as "in contrast to the toxic narrative repeatedly played out in the media we have often witnessed an outpouring of generosity; by host communities, by individuals, and by families opening their homes."

World Refugee Day is observed by UNHCR annually to commemorate "the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees."

UNHCR is calling on people to sign a #WithRefugees petition, which will be delivered to UN headquarters ahead of September's General Assembly meeting. It is also calling on all governments to ensure every refugee child gets an education; every refugee family has "somewhere safe to live," and "every refugee can work or learn new skills to make a positive contribution to their community."

Source: TRTWorld and agencies