One in every 122 people alive today are living in exile, forced from their homes by war, conflict and persecution, a UN report has claimed.
The annual global trends survey released yesterday by the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, found a record 59.5 million people were living in exile by the end of 2014. If the number of displaced people was measured as a country, its population would be only slightly smaller than Italy.
The 16 per cent increase is the largest ever seen in a single year, and is up 59 per cent on a decade earlier.
The findings are a reminder of the need for a global humanitarian response to mass exile resulting from conflict and persecution, according to UN high commissioner for refugees Antonio Guterres.
Guterres called on a renewed international commitment to “tolerance and protection” for people fleeing conflict and persecution. “It is terrifying that on the one hand there is more and more impunity for those starting conflicts, and on the other there is [a] seeming utter inability of the international community to work together to stop wars and build and preserve peace,” he said.
Over the past five years, at least 15 conflicts have broken out or reignited across Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Europe. Few of those conflicts have been resolved and most are still forcing people to flee.
This was particularly true in the Middle East and North Africa, where the increase in the number of refugees stood at 19 per cent last year.
Meanwhile, decades-old instability and conflict in countries such as Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo means that millions remain on the move or stranded on the edge of society as long-term refugees.
The UN report comes a day after this year’s Global Peace Index found that 13 per cent of the world’s GDP is spent on conflict measures, including safety, security and militarisation, with an overall cost to the world economy of £9.2 trillion.
The full global trends report is available here.