Record number of people displaced: UN

A record 71 million people have been displaced by war, persecution and violence, the UN says.
A record 71 million people have been displaced by war, persecution and violence, the UN says.

A record 71 million people have been displaced worldwide as a result of war, persecution and other violence, the UN refugee agency says.

The total is an increase of more than two million on last year, and an overall figure that would amount to the world's 20th most populous country.

The annual Global Trends report released by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) counted the number of the world's refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people at the end of 2018.

The figures, coming on the eve of World Refugee Day on Thursday, are bound to add fuel to a debate at the intersection of international law, human rights and domestic politics especially the resistance in some countries, including the US, to immigrants and refugees.

Launching the report, UNHCR high commissioner Filippo Grandi said it was "damaging" to depict migrants and refugees as threats to jobs and security in host countries.

He said these people are often fleeing insecurity and danger.

The UNHCR said 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of last year, up from about 68.5 million in 2017 - and an increase of almost 65 per cent on a decade ago.

Among them, nearly three in five people - more than 41 million - have been displaced within their home countries.

Grandi told reporters in Geneva: "The global trends, once again unfortunately, go in what I would say is the wrong direction.

"There are new conflicts, new situations, producing refugees, adding themselves to the old ones. The old ones never get resolved."

After eight years of war in Syria, its people continue to make up the largest population of forcibly displaced people, at some 13 million.

Amid runaway inflation and political turmoil at home, Venezuelans for the first time accounted for the largest number of new asylum-seekers in 2018, with more than 340,000 - or more than one in five worldwide last year.

He also spoke out against recent rhetoric which has been hostile to migrants and refugees.

"In America, just like in Europe actually and in other parts of the world, what we are witnessing is an identification of refugees - but not just refugees, migrants as well - with people that come take away jobs that threaten our security, our values," Mr Grandi said.

"And I want to say to the US administration - to the president - but also to the leaders around the world: This is damaging."

Australian Associated Press