syria migrants refugees kids.jpg
Photograph: EPA/WAEL HAMZEH

A record 65.3 million people are internally displaced, asylum seekers or refugees, as a result of new conflicts that have erupted and old ones that have not been solved for decades, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reported Monday.

The global count reached another post-World-War-II high last year as 24 people were forced to flee wars or persecution every minute, according to the annual Global Trends report released on World Refugee Day.

The tally rose from 59.5 million in 2014 to 65.3 million in 2015 - one in every 113 people worldwide.

These astoundingly high numbers represent "immense human suffering," the UNHCR said.

"More people are being displaced by war and persecution and that's worrying in itself, but the factors that endanger refugees are multiplying too," said Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

"At sea, a frightening number of refugees and migrants are dying each year; on land, people fleeing war are finding their way blocked by closed borders," he said.

Children on the run are especially vulnerable. They made up just over half of the world's refugees in 2015, and around 100,000 were either travelling alone or were accidentally separated from their parents.

In the last five years, the rate of forced displacement increased largely because situations which lead to the displacement of people are lasting longer and these situations are occurring more frequently.

Half of the world's refugees come from three countries: Syria at 4.9 million, Afghanistan at 2.17 million and Somalia at 1.1 million.

While the Syrian civil war started in 2011, the conflicts in Somalia and Afghanistan are in their third and fourth decade, respectively.

In addition, violence has broken out in the past few years in Yemen, Burundi, Ukraine and the Central African Republic.

The situation inside Yemen was the most dramatic of any country last year, when 2.5 million people representing nearly 10 per cent of the population became internally displaced.

In addition, gang crimes and other violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras forced thousands abroad last year, mostly to Mexico and the United States.

The report said that the rate at which permanent solutions are being found refugees has been falling since the Cold War.

Only 201,400 refugees were able to return to their home countries in 2015, one of the lowest annual figures of the past 20 years.

However, UNHCR noted that Western countries were offering an increasing number of places for resettling refugees from conflict regions. The United States and Canada were the biggest resettlement hosts last year.

It was also a record year for asylum claims. Germany received more than any other country with 440,000 requests, which reflects the country's "readiness to receive people who were fleeing to Europe via the Mediterranean," the UN Refugee Agency said.

Turkey hosted the largest number of refugees, roughly 2.5 million people.

The UNHCR stressed that nearly 90 per cent of the world's refugees have been taken in by poor or middle-income countries.

Grandi criticized Europe's increasingly restrictive immigration policies and called for greater solidarity with poorer host countries.

"Closing borders does not solve the problem," he said.

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