More refugees than ever forcibly displaced in 2016

A UN peacekeeper keeps watch as children gather in a camp for displaced civilians in Juba South Sudan

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' annual report shows the total number of people displaced worldwide was about 300,000 higher at the end of previous year than at the end of 2015. South Sudan, with a little over a quarter, has the next-biggest proportion, the agency said.

A record 65.6 million people were forcibly displaced across the world and the global refugee population was also the highest on record - 22.5 million - at the end of 2016, according to the agency. More people fled the conflict in Syria - 5.5 million - than any other country, but the biggest new source of refugees was what the report called "the disastrous breakdown of peace efforts" in South Sudan.

The figures released ahead of World Refugee Day showed that a full 10.3 million of the world's displaced people fled their homes past year alone, including 3.4 million who crossed worldwide borders to become refugees. Syria, Iraq, and the still very significant displacement inside Colombia were the biggest internal displacement situations, nonetheless the problem of internal displacement is a worldwide one and accounts for nearly two thirds of the global forced displacement total.

The total refugee population - people who fled their home countries - was about 22.5 million people, and almost half of those were children. "We have to do better for these people".

- Some 552,200 refugees returned to their countries of origin - more than double the previous year.

Worldwide, most refugees - 84 per cent - were in low- or middle-income countries as of end 2016, with one in every three (4.9 million people) being hosted by the least developed countries.

The "unprecedented high" reveals that one in every 113 people worldwide is displaced and a person was displaced every three seconds in 2016, half of which were children under age eighteen.

Syria is the only country in which a majority of the population is forcibly displaced.

Syria's six-year civil war remained the largest single cause of displacement, with 12 million people - around two-thirds of the population - either uprooted within the country or fleeing overseas, the group said. This huge imbalance reflects several things including the continuing lack of consensus internationally when it comes to refugee hosting and the proximity of many poor countries to regions of conflict.

Children, who make up half the world's refugees, continue to bear a disproportionate burden of the suffering, mainly due to their greater vulnerability.

By the end of 2016, 3.3 million people from the world's newest country had fled their homes, more than half to neighbouring countries. It has since exceeded 3 million.

That number marks a jump of just 300,000 from the end of 2015, but is more than six million higher than at the end of 2014, according to a fresh report published by the United Nations refugee agency.

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