At a time when the world is facing an unprecedented displacement crisis, this year’s World Refugee Day on June 20 marked an important moment to honour the courage of all the women, men, and children who have been forced to flee their homes, and to reflect on how we can address their urgent and longer-term needs, while preventing future crises.
This week, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, released its latest data on forced displacement in 2015. The new figures remind us of the enormous humanitarian challenges the global community is currently confronting. As of the end of 2015, 65.3 million people were forced to flee their homes, of which 21.3 million were refugees (16.1 million under UNHCR’s mandate and 5.2 million Palestinian refugees under UNRWA’s mandate), 40.8 million persons displaced within their own country, and 3.2 million asylum seekers. This represents a rise of more than 50% compared to five years ago (42.5 million in 2011), and is the largest total number of displaced people to date. With 4.9 million refugees, 6.6 million IDPs, and nearly 250,000 asylum-seekers, an estimated 11.7 million Syrians were displaced by the end of last year.
Girls and women, who are particularly vulnerable in displacement situations, represented almost half (47%) of the world’s refugees in 2015; and children (under 18) who also face high risks such as abuse, exploitation or forced military recruitment, accounted for slightly more than half (51%), a jump of 10% since 2009. Beyond immediate life-saving assistance, these refugees have longer-term needs such as meaningful employment for the adults and continued education for the children.
Most of the media attention has been focused on the number of refugees who arrived in Europe and other rich countries these past two years. But, as the UNHCR data shows, developing countries, with enormous poverty and development challenges of their own and far fewer resources than Europe, hosted 86% (13.9 million) of the world’s refugees in 2015. This was the highest figure in more than two decades and a stark contrast with the 2.2 million hosted by developed nations. The least-developed countries, that have some of the highest and deepest poverty levels, and the widest funding gaps, provided asylum to 4.2 million (roughly 26% of the global total). Our interactive map provides further details about where forcibly displaced people live.
These astonishing numbers remind us of the urgency to address the immediate humanitarian needs of the millions of people who have fled their homes, but also how interlinked development and humanitarian efforts are. The top 10 refugee-hosting nations are all developing countries. Investing in long-term development of the refugees, their developing host countries, and countries at risk of producing refugees is a prerequisite to promote stability and stem future crises. Read our Financing Stability: How Humanitarian and Development Assistance Must Rise to the Challenge Report to find ONE and partners’ recommendations for investing in long-term human security.