The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Filippo Grandi, said the number of people forced to flee their homes in 2017 rose to 68.5 million, warning that the world’s displacement hotspots “are becoming hotter”.
Grandi also said nearly three million more people were displaced year-on-year, citing ongoing, protracted violence around the globe and a lack of solutions to conflicts as reasons for the increase.
According to him, more than two thirds of all refugees worldwide originated from only a handful of countries.
He said that “continuous pressure on civilians” caught up in fighting, had pushed them to leave their homes.
Top of the list is Syria, where seven years of brutal fighting had forced more than six million people to seek shelter abroad, followed by Afghanistan (2.6 million) and South Sudan (2.4 million).
The High Commissioner noted ongoing concerns over 1.5 million Syrian refugees in neighbouring host countries, including Lebanon, stressing that “it’s not a question of ‘if’, but ‘when’” they will return to Syria – once conditions allow.
New disputes in 2017 were also significant contributors to global displacement, he said.
These include the exodus of more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar to Bangladesh in 2017, he said, adding that it is still not safe for them to return, as well as 1.5 million Venezuelans who had sought shelter in neighbouring countries in Latin America.
Grandi also expressed concern for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where violence has spread to formerly peaceful areas of the vast country and caused displacement figures to double in 2017, to 4.4 million.
The report also found that 85 per cent of the 68.5 million displaced in 2017 came from poor or middle-income countries.
This, Grandi added, “should be an element dispelling the notion” that the so-called crisis is only in the rich world, “which it is not”.
“It continues to be a crisis mostly of the poor world – so, people from poor countries moving to poor countries, or staying within their country, as displaced.”
In addition, 70 per cent of the world’s displaced are nationals of just 10 countries, according to the UNHCR report.
“This is also significant because it means, frankly, that if there were solutions to conflicts to these countries – or some of them at least – this number could start to come down.
“But we haven’t seen any significant progress in peacemaking or peace-building in any of these 10 countries,” the high commissioner said.
In spite of the rise in displacement driven by persecution and violence and the lack of conflict resolution, Grandi struck a positive note, saying solutions were within reach and UNHCR is helping to find solutions to the pressures caused by mass displacement.