Imagine the entire population of Britain uprooted: The U.N. refugee agency says just over that number — 65 million people — were displaced worldwide by the end of last year, easily setting a new postwar record, as it warned that European and other rich nations can expect the tide to continue if root causes aren’t addressed.
In a year when more than a million people arrived on European shores, UNHCR said continued conflicts and persecution in places like Syria and Afghanistan fueled a nearly 10-percent increase in the total number of refugees and internally displaced people in 2015.
“I hope that the message carried by those forcibly displaced reaches the leaderships: We need action, political action, to stop conflicts,” said Filippo Grandi, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. “The message that they have carried is: ‘If you don’t solve problems, problems will come to you.'”
The figures are contained in the Geneva-based agency’s latest Global Trends Report issued Monday, timed for World Refugee Day. They show that for the first time since World War II, the 60 million mark was crossed, even topping the equivalent of the total U.K. population of about 64.6 million.
“If these 65.3 million persons were a nation, they would make up the 21st largest in the world,” the report said.
To learn more, visit the AP news story.
To mark World Refugee Day, we feature a selection of photo essays on the mass migration of displaced people around the globe:
The dream of normalcy after a life destroyed by Syria’s civil war had sustained 26-year-old Mohammed al-Haj throughout his journey. Across the Aegean Sea where others like him had drowned. Through miles of walking under hot sun. Through rain and muddy fields, crowded train stations and long bus rides, lack of sleep, confusion, impatience, exhaustion, fear and anger — the constant barrage of every emotion, except one. Never despair, never a moment of despair or surrender.
Mohammed’s voyage was part of an historic movement of humanity as more than 600,000 migrants this year have crossed land and sea, seeking sanctuary in Europe.
Photos by Muhammed Muheisen
About half of the 4.8 million Syrians who fled their homeland are children, and some of the most vulnerable live in dozens of makeshift tent camps, including in Jordan, which has taken in close to 640,000 refugees.
For the hundreds of thousands of migrants on the move across Europe, the pace of a day is dictated by forces almost entirely beyond their control: the heat of the sun, the location of guards or police, the reliability of a cellphone signal.
Photos by Petros Giannakouris
The women walked across the Syrian border into Turkey heavily pregnant, crossed the Aegean Sea in perilous journeys that risked their own lives and those of the babies they carried, because they dreamed of their children being born in a better world — in a peaceful, prosperous country in central or northern Europe.
Once home to more than 14,000 refugees and migrants, the makeshift camp at Greece’s border village of Idomeni has now been evacuated and its former occupants transferred to other, supposedly better organized camps.
On any given summer day, the hot sun glares down on the streets of Gaziantep, a Turkish city on the border with Syria. Inside stifling garment and shoe workshops, Syrian refugee children are hard at work, sewing machines buzzing in the background.
Photos by Santi Palacios
The migrants arrive by the hundreds on the beaches of the Greek island of Lesbos. And in their eagerness to move on, they leave behind belongings they carried on their backs.
Photos by Hassan Ammar
Further down on Hamra Street, his mother and three younger siblings also have their spots, begging for a living. Mohammad Hussein, 13, is among the hundreds of thousands of Syrians who fled their country’s devastating civil war, now in its sixth year, for refuge next door in tiny Lebanon. Many of the youngest are now out of school and have to work or beg to support their families. Their plight is one of the most visible signs of the unprecedented refugee crisis that has put an immense strain on neighboring Mideast countries and destabilized Europe.
With crime declining in the Netherlands, the country is looking at new ways to fill its prisons. The government has let Belgium and Norway put prisoners in empty cells and now, amid the huge flow of migrants into Europe, several Dutch prisons have been temporarily pressed into service as asylum-seeker centers. Most of the 12 former prisons and jails housing asylum seekers have been so transformed that they are barely recognizable as former places of involuntary detention, though in some cases the thick cell doors and bars on windows are stark reminders of the past.
Photos by Gregorio Borgia
At Greece’s blockaded border with Macedonia, 10,000 people who arrived hoping to start new lives farther west and north in Europe are settling instead into lives in limbo, sleeping in tents in mud and rain as they wait to find out what happens next.
Opening text from the AP news story, UN says 65 million people displaced in 2015, a new record, by Jamey Keaten.
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