For the first time, more than 60 million people cannot safely go home. That is 1 in every 113 people in the world. The number jumped from 59.5 million in 2014 to 65.3 million last year, according to a global trends report released Monday by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
Conflict is the main driver of new displacement, and because so many conflicts are prolonged, many stay displaced for years. Last year there were nearly 6 million newly displaced people, but only 201,400 returned home. The U.N. report lays out the past year's statistics in stark terms. For instance, on average, 24 people are forcibly displaced from their homes every minute, or roughly two people for each time you take a breath.
Almost two-thirds of the 65.3 million are displaced within their own country. Almost all the rest are in the midst of fleeing their country, and may live in some kind of camp, be it temporarily or permanently. Only a sliver — 3.2 million — are in "industrialized countries," where they await decisions on being granted asylum. That is a reality that cannot be emphasized enough: Not only are most of the forcibly displaced not seeking refuge in Western lands such as the United States, Germany, Australia or elsewhere, but rather they are in their own conflict-ridden countries or in heavily burdened nations nearby.
Filippo Grandi of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said in a news release that "politics is gravitating against asylum in some countries. The willingness of nations to work together not just for refugees but for the collective human interest is what's being tested today, and it's this spirit of unity that badly needs to prevail."
On Friday, the charity Doctors Without Borders, which often goes by its French initials MSF, announced that it would stop taking money from countries belonging to the European Union "in opposition to their damaging deterrence policies and intensifying attempts to push people and their suffering away from European shores. This decision will take effect immediately and will apply to MSF’s projects worldwide."
About 32,000 refugees were naturalized in 2015, and the majority of them were in Canada. Germany was the largest recipient of asylum applications, followed by the United States (refugees fleeing gang violence in Central America), Sweden (refugees fleeing conflict in the Middle East) and Russia (Russians fleeing conflict in Ukraine).
The charts below help describe shifts that took place in refugee movement over the course of 2015. Check out this link for maps of how the routes across the Mediterranean Sea, in particular, have developed over the past few years.
The year saw a continued increase in refugees from Syria. South Sudan and the Central African Republic also saw significant outflows through the year, as did Yemen, which didn't make it onto the chart.
The majority of Syrians fleeing end up in Turkey, which is hosting about 2.5 million Syrians.
But the number of refugees as a proportion of the host nations' original population is way higher in Lebanon, which is also hosting more than a million Syrians. The same can be said for Jordan, which is home to the sprawling Zaatari camp pictured above.
And in terms of the economic burden that refugees represent, African countries are bearing the brunt. Congo and Ethiopia are desperately poor countries whose civilians are susceptible to conflict, drought and endemic poverty -- but the countries host vast numbers of refugees and must rely mostly on international organizations to help them with their care.
Kenya recently invoked this argument in demanding that the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps, home to more than half a million Somali and South Sudanese refugees, be closed as soon as possible.