Twenty People Become Refugees Every Minute, U.N. Report Finds

Migrants on boat
Migrants on a wooden boat being rescued by a "Save the Children" NGO crew from the ship Vos Hestia in the Mediterranean sea off Libya coast, June 18. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

The number of displaced people in the world has almost doubled in 20 years, according to a report released today by the United Nations' refugee agency.

The UNHCR found that the number of forcibly displaced people has risen from 33.9 million in 1997 to 65.6 million in 2016. One in 113 people are displaced, compared with around one in 160 a decade ago. Every minute, 20 people somewhere in the world become refugees.

Just over half of all refugees were children (51 percent) in 2016, according to the report. The UNHCR also said that 75,000 asylum applications were made by children, mostly from Afghanistan or Syria, who were traveling alone or had been separated from their families, although this figure is probably an underestimate, the organization says. These unaccompanied children are far more vulnerable to abuse and illness than those traveling with a family unit.

The increase in refugees has been fueled by ongoing conflicts, from Syria, to Yemen, and South Sudan to Congo.

Most of the world's refugees come from Syria, with 5.5 million forced to flee the country in 2016. The next highest number of refugees come from Afghanistan, followed by South Sudan, Somalia, and Sudan.

However, the number of Afghan refugees has fallen since 2015 due to a million returning from neighboring Pakistan.

The report also supplied data on host countries, revealing that Turkey hosted the most refugees in 2016, with nearly three million fleeing to Turkey for safety. Pakistan, which provides refuge mainly for Afghans, hosted the second greatest number last year, while Lebanon was third. Ongoing crises in sub-Saharan Africa have resulted in large and sudden population displacements, which results in neighboring countries opening their borders to those fleeing conflict.

Around two thirds of refugees find themselves in a "protracted refugee system;" when at least 25,000 refugees of the same nationality have been in exile in a particular nation for five years.or refugees who have been displaced for over five years.

While the report does not predict an optimistic outcome to the crisis, it emphasizes the need for long-lasting solutions to crises, rather than just emergency responses.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, said: "By any measure this [the number of refugees is] an unacceptable number, and it speaks louder than ever to the need for solidarity and common purpose in preventing and resolving crises, and ensuring together that the world's refugees, internally displaced and asylum seekers are properly protected and cared for while solutions are pursued.

"We have to do better for these people. For a world in conflict, what is needed is determination and courage, not fear."