UN says refugee numbers at record level

The number of people displaced by conflict is at the
highest level ever recorded, the UN refugee agency
says.
It estimates that 65.3m people were either refugees, asylum
seekers or internally displaced at the end of 2015, an
increase of 5m in a year.
This represents one in every 113 people on the planet, it
adds.
Meanwhile, the UN refugee chief says a worrying “climate of
xenophobia” has taken hold in Europe as it struggles to cope
with the migrant crisis.
The influx of people, the biggest since World War Two, has
led to greater support to far-right groups and controversial
anti-immigration policies.
In its annual report marking World Refugee Day, the UN said
it was the first time ever that the number of refugees
worldwide passed the 60m mark.
Over half of all of them came from war-torn Syria,
Afghanistan and Somalia, it added.
Are more people on the move?
Migrant crises through history
Despite the huge focus on Europe’s migrant crisis, the UN
said 86% of the refugees were being sheltered in low and
middle income countries.
It pointed out that Germany received the most asylum
requests, reflecting what was described as the country’s
readiness to accept refugees.
More than 1,011,700 migrants arrived in Europe by sea last
year, according to the International Organization for
Migration (IOM), although other agencies put that number
much higher.
Some 35,000 arrived by land, the IOM said.
The preferred destination for most of them were richer
northern countries like Germany and Sweden.
‘Climate of xenophobia’
The crisis has caused significant political rifts within the EU,
with some states inside the border-free Schengen area
putting up fences and reimposing frontier controls.
The European bloc reached an agreement with Turkey in
an attempt to stem the flux, a deal that has been heavily
criticised by human rights groups.
In separate remarks, the UN refugee chief said European
leaders needed to do more to coordinate policies and to
combat negative stereotypes about refugees.
“Those who do the opposite, who stir up public opinion
against refugees and migrants, have a responsibility in
creating a climate of xenophobia that is very worrying in
today’s Europe,” Filippo Grandi told AFP news agency.
He said it was unfortunate that some decisions taken by the
EU to handle the crisis “were not implemented”, calling it “a
missed opportunity”.
A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to
refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete
the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes
people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are
likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who
are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are
likely to rule are economic migrants.

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