Conflict or persecution forced a record 65.6 million people worldwide to flee their homes by the end of 2016. That equates to one person displaced every three seconds. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) released the figure on Monday (June 19), the eve of World Refugee Day.
Syria and Afghanistan remain the biggest sources of refugees, with 5.5 million and 2.5 million nationals from the two countries displaced respectively.
Famine and civil war in South Sudan saw the country last year become the source the world’s fastest-growing displacement crisis. The number of South Sudanese who fled across the border rose by 64 percent in 2016, from 1.4 million to 1.9 million.
The report showed that more than 10 million of the world’s displaced people were uprooted from their homes in the past year alone. Some 3.5 million displaced persons crossed international borders for the first time to become refugees. “This equates to one person becoming displaced every three seconds – less than the time it takes to read this sentence,” the UNHCR said in a statement.
According to the findings of its Global Trends report, children under the age of 18 make up over half of the refugee population.
While around half a million people returned to their countries of origin, an estimated ten million are believed to be stateless.