Forced displacement this year is likely exceed all previous records, for the first time topping 60 million, meaning that one out of every 122 persons on Earth has been forced to flee their home, the United Nations refugee agency warned today.
“Never has there been a greater need for tolerance, compassion and solidarity with people who have lost everything,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said of the agency’s new report, based on projections from the first half of 2015.
“Forced displacement is now profoundly affecting our times. It touches the lives of millions of our fellow human beings – both those forced to flee and those who provide them with shelter and protection.”
The Mid-Year Trends 2015 report from the High Commissioner’s Office (OHCHR), looking at worldwide displacement from conflict and persecution from January to June, shows markers firmly in the red in each of the three major categories – refugees, asylum-seekers, and internally displaced persons (IDPs).
The global refugee total, which a year ago was 19.5 million, had as of mid-2015 passed the 20 million threshold (20.2 million) for the first time since 1992, while asylum applications were up 78 per cent (993,600) over the same period in 2014, and the number IDPs jumped by around two million to an estimated 34 million.
The report shows worsening indicators in several key areas. Voluntary return rates – a measure of how many refugees can safely go back home and a barometer of the global state of conflict – are at their lowest in over three decades – an estimated 84,000 compared to 107,000 in the same period a year ago.
In effect, if you become a refugee today your chances of going home are lower than at any time in more than 30 years.
New refugee numbers are also up sharply: some 839,000 people in just six months, equivalent to an average rate of almost 4,600 forced to flee their countries every day. Syria’s war remains the single biggest generator of both new refugees and continuing mass internal displacement. But even excluding Syria, the underlying trend remains one of rising displacement globally.
The report stressed that with more refugees being stuck in exile, pressures on host countries are growing too – something which unmanaged can increase resentment and abet politicization of refugees. But despite this, the first half of 2015 was also marked by extraordinary generosity.
On an absolute basis, and counting refugees who fall under UNHCR's mandate, Turkey is the world’s biggest host country with 1.84 million refugees as of 30 June, while Lebanon hosts more refugees compared to population size than any other – 209 refugees per 1,000. Ethiopia pays most in relation to its economy with 469 refugees for every dollar of gross domestic product.
Overall, the lion’s share of hosting refugees continues to be carried by countries immediately bordering zones of conflict, many of them in the developing world.
Europe’s influx of people arriving by boat via the Mediterranean is only partly reflected in the report, mainly since arrivals escalated in the second half of 2015. Still, in the first six months, Germany was the world's biggest recipient of new asylum claims – 159,000, close to the entire total for all of 2014.
The second largest recipient was Russia with 100,000 claims, mainly people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine.