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Refugee numbers are highest since records began

19 June 2015

A UN report has revealed that more people are on the move than ever before, as major conflicts around the world continue to escalate.

Almost 60 million people had to flee their homes in 2014 – a figure that roughly adds up to the UK’s population.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says these are the highest levels seen since records began.

Broken down further, these figures show, astonishingly, that one in every 122 people on the planet has now been driven from their homes. Nearly half of all refugees are children.

Fittingly, these startling statistics have emerged during Refugee Week.

Poorer countries bear burden

The UN’s Global Trends Report 2015 states that 59.5 million people fled their homes last year – compared with 51.2 million the year before.

The majority – 38.2 million – were displaced with their own country.

Of those who did cross national borders, almost nine out of every 10 people (86 per cent) ended up in economically less developed countries and regions.

Despite the grave worldwide picture, the figures therefore reveal that most of the world’s refugees are not coming to Europe. Less than one per cent are in the UK.

According to Eurostat (which gives statistics for the European Union), almost two-thirds of people granted protection last year are in four EU member states: Germany (47,600), Sweden (33,000), France (20,600) and Italy (20,600).

Conflicts rumble on

Commenting on the reason for the global increase, the UNHCR pointed to at least 15 conflicts – still ongoing – in the past five years. These included critical situations in South Sudan, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

In fact, the war in Syria – which broke out four years ago – has become the world’s largest driver of mass movement.

On top of that, there is still continuing, decades-old instability in countries such as Afghanistan and Somalia.

The UN high commissioner for refugees, Antonio Guterres, said: “We are witnessing a paradigm change, an unchecked slide into an era in which the scale of global forced displacement, as well as the response required, is clearly dwarfing anything seen before.”

Great humanitarian need

Mike Adamson, chief executive of the British Red Cross, said: “The need for a humanitarian response to this situation has never been greater. Behind every statistic is a real person, facing real crisis, who desperately needs our help and support.

“Through our network of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, we will continue to support refugees around the world. This includes people desperate and frightened enough to take dangerous journeys – whether by sea in the Mediterranean or a trek across the Sinai Peninsula.  

“For the minority who come to the UK, the British Red Cross will continue to offer support to refugees and asylum seekers. We currently work in 60 towns and cities around the UK, helping thousands of people get back on their feet at their lowest moment.”

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