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Global Forced Displacements Reach Record Breaking Levels

FILE - Syrian refugee children pass time in a neighborhood of the city of Gaziantep, southeastern Turkey.
FILE - Syrian refugee children pass time in a neighborhood of the city of Gaziantep, southeastern Turkey.

Last year, 65.3 million people were forcibly displaced, an increase of nearly five million over the previous year. U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said more people now are being displaced by war and persecution. This, at a time when a growing number of countries are closing their borders to asylum seekers.

"Twenty-four people are displaced every minute…Two-thirds of the forcibly displaced are internally displaced…Ninety percent of the forcibly displaced are displaced in poor or middle income countries. Not in the rich world," said Grandi.

The report finds three countries - Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia - produce half of the world's 21 million refugees. It says 50 percent of all refugees are children, many of whom become separated from their families while fleeing. Statistics show 98,000 asylum requests were made by unaccompanied children last year, the highest number ever seen.

High Commissioner Grandi told VOA Syria remains the largest forcibly displaced crisis in the world, but new ones keep popping up. While Burundi has been in and out of conflict for decades, he said that over the past year, there has been an upsurge of internally displaced people and refugees in that country.

"Then there are crises like South Sudan that have also gone through different phases. We are, unfortunately, in an upsurge phase…There is a new movement out of Afghanistan. Even people that have been refugees in Iran for a long time—Afghans—are moving on," said Grandi.

The report cites the Middle East and North Africa, with 23.6 million refugees and displaced, as the region with the highest displacement in the world.

Sub-Saharan Africa follows closely behind with 18.4 million refugees and internally displaced people recorded as of year's end. Though Europe has garnered the most media attention, the report says this is the region with the lowest number of refugees.