We The Peoples
Published in

We The Peoples

Conflict and persecution displace more people than at any time in 70 years

Our statistics show that 65.6 million people — more than the entire population of the United Kingdom — were forcibly displaced at the end of 2016.

New in 2016: South Sudanese have become the third largest group of refugees worldwide. © UNHCR/Will Swanson

Today we released our annual survey of the state of displacement. Here’s what you need to know:

① The bad news

The number of people forced to flee is at the highest level ever recorded. At the end of 2016, some 65.6 million were people forcibly displaced. That’s 300,000 more than the previous year. Of this number, 10.3 million people were newly displaced in 2016, two-thirds within their own country.

② High levels of refugees

Today there are 22.5 million refugees worldwide. Syria remains the world’s largest producer of refugees (5.5 million). South Sudan, the world’s newest country, now ranks third, after Syria and Afghanistan.

Recently arrived refugees from South Sudan wait at a UNHCR collection point in Elegu, Uganda. © UNHCR/Will Swanson

③ Contrary to popular opinion, most refugees live outside of Europe

Around one in three refugees flee to the world’s least developed countries. The vast majority, 84 per cent, live in low- and middle-income countries.

Nearly 80,000 Syrians now live in Za’atari camp, but most refugees in Jordan — and globally — live in urban areas, not camps. © UNHCR/Jordi Matas

④ Children are disproportionately affected by conflict

Half of the world’s refugees are children. By contrast only a third of the global population is children.

75,000 unaccompanied or separated children applied for asylum in 2016, but the actual number of children fleeing on their own is thought to be even higher.

These boys are among thousands fleeing gangs in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. © UNHCR/Daniele Volpe

⑤ And now for some good news:

Growth in global displacement has slowed down a bit. In the previous three years the increases were in the millions, not hundreds of thousands.

Half a million refugees, and 6.5 million people displaced inside their countries, returned to their areas of origin, BUT many in less than ideal circumstances.

Some 37 countries accepted 189,300 refugees for resettlement.

Young returnees in Myanmar on the journey home. © UNHCR/Roger Arnold

Find more facts about people forced to flee here.




Voices from around the United Nations, with updates on digital diplomacy, peace, security, human rights and sustainable development.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
UN Refugee Agency

UN Refugee Agency

The official account of UNHCR. Follow us as we provide vital aid and protection to the forcibly displaced around the world.

More from Medium

Constant Retronym: A memoir by Dott Jason

The Red Wheelbarrow, and Its Creator

If You Don’t Have a Driving Emotion Supporting Your Goal, You Will Fail to Achieve It