The number of people forced to flee their homes last year rose by nearly three million to 68.5 million, the head of the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said on Tuesday, warning that the world’s displacement hotspots “are becoming hotter”.
Citing ongoing, protracted violence around the globe and a lack of solutions to conflicts as reasons for the increase, Filippo Grandi said that “continuous pressure on civilians” caught up in fighting, had pushed them to leave their homes.
More than two thirds of all refugees worldwide originated from only a handful of countries, the High Commissioner told journalists in Geneva.
Top of the list is Syria, where seven years of brutal fighting have forced more than 6 million people to seek shelter abroad, followed by Afghanistan (2.6 million) and South Sudan (2.4 million).
Responding to a question about ongoing concerns over 1.5 million Syrian refugees in neighbouring host countries, including Lebanon, the High Commissioner stressed that “it’s not a question of ‘if’, but ‘when’” they will return to Syria — once conditions allow.
New disputes in 2017 were also significant contributors to global displacement.
These include the exodus of more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar to Bangladesh last year, the UNHCR chief said, adding that it is still not safe for them to return, as well as 1.5 million Venezuelans who had sought shelter in neighbouring countries in Latin America.