Watch: One person displaced every three seconds in 2016 - UNHCR

Refugee numbers hit record highs, new report finds

Video: UNHCR

A record 65.6 million people worldwide were forced from their homes due to conflict or persecution by the end of 2016, the United Nations said today.

The UN refugee agency's Global Trends Report, published ahead of World Refugee Day tomorrow, found that the number of displaced people worldwide rose by 300,000 over the previous year.

To put the numbers into context, in 2016 one person became displaced every three seconds. By the end of that year, one in 113 people worldwide was displaced.


Of the 65.6 million people displaced, 22.5 million are refugees - the highest number ever recorded. More than half of these come from just three countries: Syria, Afghanistan and South Sudan.

And while developed countries continue to debate how to best manage increased arrivals of people fleeing war and persecution, it is developing regions which continue to assume the lion's share of refugee populations.

Graphic: UNHCRGraphic: UNHCR

Developing regions hosted 84 per cent of the world's refugees in 2016, with Lebanon hosting the largest number of refugees per capita (one in every six), followed by Jordan (one in 11) and Turkey (one in 28).

Sweden is the first developed country on the list (5th), with Malta also making the top ten at 9th. 

By sheer numbers, Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees (2.9 million) followed by Pakistan (1.4 mln) and Lebanon (1 mln).

Programmes aimed at returning refugees to their home countries worked better than in previous years, with 552,200 refugees taking up such offers last year. That figure is more than double the 2015 one, with the highest number returned to Afghanistan.

Asylum seekers

Asylum seekers totalled 2.8 million by the end of last year, the UN report found. 

Tragically, 75,000 asylum claims were received from children travelling alone or separated from their parents. The report says even this number is likely to underestimate the true figure.

Germany, the USA, Italy and Turkey received the highest number of asylum applications in 2016, with more than 2 million claims lodged. In total, 189,300 refugees were accepted for resettlement by 37 different countries.

Internally displaced

While many people fled their countries in a bid to seek protection, far greater numbers found themselves internally displaced, forced to leaves their homes while remaining within their nation's borders. 

Photo: ShutterstockPhoto: Shutterstock

By the end of 2016, 40.3 million people were internally displaced - a massive number but better than the 40.8 million figure registered the previous year. 

Conflict in Syria and Iraq and a lack of security in parts of Colombia were the most significant causes of this internal displacement. 

At least 10 million people are estimated to be stateless, the UN report found. The Global Trends report is based on the UNHCR's own data, data it receives from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre and data received from governments.