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More than half world's conflict displaced come from Middle East

Houthi followers hold up their rifles as they shout slogans during a demonstration in Yemen. Photo: Reuters

Houthi followers hold up their rifles as they shout slogans during a demonstration in Yemen. Photo: Reuters

Yemeni people made up one out of every four people forced to flee their homes due to conflict in 2015, a new report published by the Norwegian Refugee Council has found.

The report also calculated that the Middle East accounted for more than half of the world’s population internally displaced by conflict last year.

With 2.2 million people displaced by airstrikes by a Saudi-led coalition force, Yemenis accounted for 25 per cent of the global total of internally displaced people. The number is 20 times bigger than Yemen’s 2014 total.

Syria, Iraq and Yemen alone accounted for more than 50 per cent of the 8.6 million global total. Yemen’s 2.2 million was the highest total, and was followed by Syria at 1.3 million and Iraq at 1.1 million.

“While richer, stable countries have been scheming to keep asylum seekers out of their borders and deny them protection, millions remain trapped in their own countries with death staring them just around the corner,” ,” said NRC’s Regional Director in the Middle East, Carsten Hansen.

The council’s new Global Report on Internal Displacement (GRID 2016) report also showed how the number of people forced to flee in Syria increased by 18 per cent over 2014, consistent with the overall deteriorating humanitarian situation, active military engagement of four of the five UN Security Council members, and a steep escalation of hostilities on the ground by the government and all armed groups.

The report found that:

  • 40.8 million people are displaced all over the world due to war - the highest figure ever recorded and more than twice the number of refugees in the world. 
  • 27.8 million people were forced to flee their homes in 2015 due to war, natural disasters and crime
  • 8.6 million people in 28 countries had to flee their homes due to conflict in 2015

  • Natural disasters forced 19.2 million in 113 countries to flee their homes in 2015

  • 4.8 million people in the Middle East were forced to flee their homes due to conflict in 2015

  • Natural disasters forced 8.4 million people in East Asia and the Pacific to flee their homes in 2015

  • Colombia, Congo, Iraq, Sudan and South Sudan have featured in the top 10 list of countries with most displaced people for every year since 2003.

In Iraq, nearly half the 1.1 million displaced came from the governorates of Anbar, Baghdad and Dohuk, as the rise of ISIS and other armed groups meant conflict continued in the country.

The global figure of newly displaced people last year is clear evidence of what has become a real global crisis. At 27.8 million people displaced, “this is the equivalent of the combined populations of New York City, London, Paris and Cairo grabbing what they can carry, often in a state of panic, and setting out on a journey filled with uncertainty," said Jan Egeland, the Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). “Put another way, around 66,000 people abandoned their homes every day of 2015.”

The report covers internal displacement caused by conflict and sudden-onset disasters, on which IDMC has been the global authority for years. In addition it now also explores displacement currently "off the grid", such as that caused by criminal and gang violence, slow-onset disasters like drought, and development projects. It also takes the reader “inside the grid” and presents some of the methodological and conceptual challenges faced in trying to paint as complete a picture as possible.

The report makes sobering reading. Some 8.6 million new displacements associated with conflict and violence were recorded in 2015, and as of the end of the year the total including those who fled in previous years stood at 40.8 million. “This is the highest figure ever recorded, and twice the number of refugees worldwide,” Egeland said.

Of the 10 countries with the highest number of people displaced by conflict, five - Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, South Sudan and Sudan - have been on the list every year since 2003.

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