Global Trends: Forced displacement in 2016

19 JUNE 2017 | ONLINE

According to the UN Refugee Agency's annual Global Trends study, over the past two decades, the global population of forcibly displaced people has grown substantially from 33.9 million in 1997 to 65.6 million in 2016, and it remains at a record high. The growth was concentrated between 2012 and 2015, driven mainly by the Syrian conflict along with other conflicts in the region such as in Iraq and Yemen, as well as in sub-Saharan Africa including Burundi, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, and Sudan.

In each of the past five years, annual increases to the global displacement total have been in the millions. While the 2016 total is high – representing an enormous number of people needing protection worldwide – it also shows that growth in displacement slowed last year.

The total figure includes 40.3 million people uprooted within the borders of their own countries, about 500,000 fewer than in 2015. Meanwhile, the total number seeking asylum globally was 2.8 million, about 400,000 fewer than in the previous year.

However, the total seeking safety across international borders as refugees topped 22.5 million, the highest number seen since UNHCR was founded in 1950 in the aftermath of the Second World War.

The conflict in Syria, now in its seventh year, was the world’s biggest producer of refugees (5.5 million). However in 2016 the biggest new factor was South Sudan, where the disastrous break-off of peace efforts in July of that year contributed to an outflow of 737,400 people by the end of the year. That number has continued to rise during the first half of 2017.

Particularly heartbreaking is the plight of children, who make up half the world’s refugees, and continue to bear a disproportionate burden of the suffering, mainly because of their heightened vulnerability