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World Refugee Day: A Look at the Crisis in 2015

The number of refugees last year hit the highest level in two decades according to the U.N.It released trend data on Monday — World Refugee Day — show.
Image: A mounted policeman leads a group of migrants near Dobova
A mounted policeman leads a group of migrants near Dobova, Slovenia, on Oct. 20, 2015. SRDJAN ZIVULOVIC / Reuters

The number of refugees last year hit the highest level in two decades, according to the U.N.

It released trend data on Monday — World Refugee Day — showing there were an estimated 16.1 million refugees worldwide at the end of 2015. Here's a look at the U.N.'s findings, by the numbers.


By the end of last year there were 65.3 million forcibly displaced people worldwide — nearly twice the population of California — and 16.1 million refugees.

"If these 65.3 million persons were a nation, they would make up the 21st largest in the world," the U.N. report said.

That's a 55 percent rise in just four years, largely driven by the conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan.

A long exposure photo shows thousands of lifejackets left by migrants and refugees piled up on the Greek island of Lesbos on Nov. 9, 2015.ALKIS KONSTANTINIDIS / Reuters


An estimated 12.4 million people were newly displaced due to conflict or persecution in 2015 — including 8.6 million people displaced within their own country's borders.

A woman stands in front of a makeshift tent in Niger's village of Kidjendi on June 19, 2016, as displaced families fled from Boko Haram attacks.ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP - Getty Images


The rate of displacement was provided in stark detail. The U.N. said that 24 people worldwide were displaced from their homes every minute of every day in 2015, or around 34,000 people per day. In 2005, it was six people per minute.

An overcrowded inflatable boat with Syrian refugees drifts in the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece after its motor broke down on Aug. 11, 2015.Yannis Behrakis / Reuters


Fifty-four percent of all refugees worldwide came from just three countries — Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia. More than 1 million Syrian refugees were newly registered during 2015, bringing their total refugee population to 4.9 million. That compares to 3.9 million a year earlier and 2.5 million at the end of 2013.

A Syrian refugee holds onto his children as he struggles to walk off a dinghy on the Greek island of Lesbos on Sept. 24, 2015.Yannis Behrakis / Reuters

There were around 2.7 million Afghan refugees and around 1.1 million Somali refugees in 2015, according to the U.N.


The world's least developed countries gave asylum to 26 percent of the global refugees total. Lebanon hosted the most in relation to its population — or 183 refugees per 1,000 inhabitants. Jordan and Nauru ranked second and third, respectively.

A photo taken on April 17 shows an aerial view of an informal refugee camp in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley.STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP - Getty Images


Children below the age of 18 made up about half of the refugee population in 2015, largely unchanged from a year earlier. However, there were around 98,4000 asylum applications filed by unaccompanied children in 2015 — the highest number on record since the U.N. refugee agency started collecting such data nearly 10 years ago.

Syrian refugees upon arriving to the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey on Sept. 28, 2015.ARIS MESSINIS / AFP - Getty Images


Last year also saw a record-high 2 million applications for asylum or refugee status. Germany was the country with the most applications — 441,900 — followed by the U.S. with 172,700 and Sweden with 156,400. Russia, meanwhile, received 152,500.

Participants attend a demonstration calling for tolerance in Berlin on June 19.Adam Berry / Getty Images


UNHCR also estimates that at least 10 million people globally were stateless at the end of 2015, but the numbers recorded by governments and given to the agency put the number far lower.

The number of stateless people — individuals without a nationality — is estimated at around 500,000 in Thailand alone.

A migrant from the stateless Rohingya minority eats food dropped by a Thai army helicopter after he jumped to collect the supplies at sea from a boat drifting in Thai waters on May 14, 2015.CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT / AFP - Getty Images


Faced with an influx of refugees and migrants, some European countries — including Germany — have advocated returning them to their home nations. According to the U.N. data, only 201,400 refugees returned to their countries of origin in 2015. Most of those — 61,400 — returned to Afghanistan. Nearly 40,000 returned to Sudan and 32,300 to Somalia.

Pakistani and Afghan migrants protest against deportation in Mytilene on the Greek island of Lesbos on April 5.ARIS MESSINIS / AFP - Getty Images


For the second consecutive year, Turkey hosted the largest number of refugees — 2.5 million people. A recent EU-Turkey deal that allows Greece to return Syrian asylum-seekers to Turkey without evaluation of their protection claims on the basis it is a "safe third country" has drawn staunch criticism.

A child sits at the Oncupinar camp for Syrian refugees at the border crossing with Syria near the town of Kilis in southeastern Turkey on Monday.Emrah Gurel / AP