2015 is on pace to have a record breaking number of refugees

One of many fleeing conflict this year.
One of many fleeing conflict this year.
Image: Reuters/Rodi Said
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The staggering number of people who fled war, violence and persecution is likely to break records this year.

Asylum applications around the world have increased by 78% since the first half of 2014, according to UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). The Mid-Year Trends 2015 report shows the dramatic increase in the global refugee total: it was 19.5 million a year ago, but reached 20.2 million by June 2015. The report notes the world is currently on track to see the number of those forcibly displaced exceed 60 million for the first time.

The total number of refugees has continued to increase consistently over the past four years. There were 839,000 refugees in the first six months in 2015 alone, which is equivalent to an average rate of almost 4,600 people forced to leave their homes every day. The main contributing factor to this increase is the Syrian civil war, which continues to intensify. It has also led to an unprecedented number of refugees and migrants arriving via the Mediterranean Sea.

But it’s not just the Syrian crisis fueling this trend. The armed conflict and deteriorating situation in a number of other countries, including Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan, have also contributed to record numbers of displacement.

The UNHCR report adds that, at an estimated 84,000, the number of refugees voluntarily returning home is now at its lowest level in over three decades. Recent figures released by Unicef also revealed that more than 16 million babies in 2015 were born in conflict zones, which translates to one in eight of all births worldwide, or one newborn every two seconds.

“Forced displacement is now profoundly affecting our times. It touches the lives of millions of our fellow human beings—both those forced to flee and those who provide them with shelter and protection,” António Guterres, High Commissioner for Refugees, said in a statement.

The increase in the total number of refugees has put a great deal of pressure on the countries hosting them. Turkey is currently the world’s biggest hosting country, with 1.84 million refugees as of June 30, though Lebanon hosts more refugees compared to its population size than any other country, with 209 refugees per 1000 inhabitants.