The number of displaced persons increased by 300,000 in 2016, bringing the global total to 65.6 million, according to the United Nation’s annual “Global Trends” report.

This record level of displacement results from persecution, conflict, violence or human rights violations, with 22.5 million being refugees, 40.3 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and 2.8 million asylum seekers.

“Over the past two decades, the global population of forcibly displaced people has grown substantially from 33.9 million in 1997 to 65.6 million in 2016, and it remains at a record high,” the report stated.

In addition, 3.2 million persons were confirmed to be stateless (“not considered as nationals by any state under its law”); the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates the actual number to be around 10 million.

“Statelessness is sometimes referred to as an invisible problem because stateless people often remain unseen and unheard,” the report explained. “Stateless people frequently live in precarious situations on the margins of society, making it a challenge to measure statelessness.”

Conflicts in Syria, Burundi, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Sudan were cited as key drivers of displacement.

Children have been particularly impacted with persons under 18 making up 51 percent of all refugees.

In addition, 75,000 unaccompanied children applied for asylum status in 2016 – down from around 90,000 in 2015, but “more than double the 34,300 applications … in 2014.”

“The fastest-growing refugee population was spurred by the crisis in South Sudan,” UNHCR said. “This group grew by 64 percent during the second half of 2016 from 854,100 to over 1.4 million, the majority of whom were children.”

Background on the ongoing civil war in South Sudan, with on-the-ground insight from Baptist leader Edward Dima, is available here.

While 2016 saw an increase in the number of displaced persons returning home, returning refugees represent “only 3 percent of the overall refugee population” and returning IDPs 18 percent of the total IDPs worldwide.

“By any measure this is an unacceptable number,” said U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, in a June 19 press release. “We have to do better for these people. For a world in conflict, what is needed is determination and courage, not fear.”

The full report is available here.

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