By the end of 2015 there were over 65 million displaced persons, the highest number since the aftermath of World War II.  And the number has increased by more than 50 per cent since 2011. The predominant causes of displacement are persecution, conflict, human rights violations, generalised violence and, more recently, climate change.

Of the 65 million displaced persons, about a third (21.3 million) are refugees (those who have had their refugee status positively assessed) and one twentieth (3.2 million) are asylum seekers whose claims for asylum have not yet been processed. The remaining 40.8 million, the largest component, are internally displaced persons, people who have been displaced but remain within their own country. About three quarters (16.1 million) of the 21.3 million refugees are under the UNHCR’s mandate and about one quarter (5.2 million) are Palestinian refugees under the mandate of the UNRWA.  

Breakdown of displaced persons worldwide

In 2015, children made up approximately 51 per cent of the refugee population, including 98,400 unaccompanied or separated children. 49 per cent of refugees were female, slightly higher than in previous years. The ‘working age’ group, refugees between 18 and 59 years old, reached a high of 54 per cent while those 60 years and over made up just 3 per cent, slightly lower than in previous years.

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Last updated November 2016.