18 Jun 2015

UNHCR warn number of refugees reaches record high

A new UN report says one in every 122 people is either a refugee or seeking asylum. It says if this number of people were a country, it would be the world’s 24th biggest.

More people have been forced to flee their homes because of war, conflict and persecution than at any time ever before, according to the new report from the UN refugee agency.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees says that worldwide displacement is at the highest level ever recorded: 59.5 million people were forcibly displaced by the end of 2014 compared to 51.2 in 2013 and 37.5 million a decade earlier. It says half of all refugees are children.

The continuing conflicts in Syria and Ukraine and the plight of the Rohingya people in Myanmar and migrants in the Mediterranean have all contributed to the increase.

The UNHCR says the war in Syria is now the world’s single-biggest driver of displacement. It says every day last year, on average 42,500 people became refugees, asylum seekers, or internally displaced people.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, said “it is terrifying that on the one hand there is more and more impunity for those starting conflicts, and on the other there is seeming utter inability of the international community to work together to stop wars and build and preserve peace.”

Mr Guterres went on to say that an “unprecedented humanitarian response and a renewed global commitment to tolerance and protection for people fleeing conflict and persecution” is now needed.


The ongoing war in Syria means that 7.6 million people are internally displaced within the country and that 3.88 million have fled abroad, according to the UNHCR. Amnesty international says that more than 200,000 people have died in the country since the war began more than four years ago.

As a result of the Syrian civil war, Lebanon has the highest concentration of refugees of any country in the world – its population has increased by just under a quarter as more than a million people have fled there.

In the past four years, the UNHCR says the total number of people who have left Syria to escape the conflict is almost four million.

Read more: Islamic State – Syrian child refugees’ reflections

The Rohingya people are a Muslim minority from Myanmar


The Rohingya people from north-west Myanmar are “one of the world’s most persecuted peoples” according to the UN.

They are a Muslim minority who have lived in Myanmar for centuries. Violence in the Rakhine State forced 140,000 of them to flee their homes in 2012.

Tens of thousands of Rohingya have also fled Myanmar in the last year in ramshackle boats trying to reach countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.


The UNHCR says a record 219,000 Mediterranean crossings were made in 2014. Many migrants have come from Libya, Syria and Eritrea and arrive in Europe on boats from north Africa searching for a better life.

According to the UNHCR, in 2014 around 3,500 migrants lost their lives while crossing the Mediterranean. Many of them have paid large sums of money to be smuggled into Europe on small boats and dinghies, arriving, for example, on the small Italian island of Lampedusa.

The refugees from Ukraine mainly come from the east of the country


The conflict in Ukraine has displaced around 1 million people – particularly inside the east of the country where the government is fighting separatists who want greater autonomy for the region.

The UN says around 600,000 Ukrainians have sought asylum, or another way to stay in neighbouring countries, particularly in Russia but also in Belarus, Moldova and Poland.