The number of displaced people in the world has reached an unprecedented level, with an estimated 65.3 million individuals forced to flee their homes due to violence and conflict, according to a new report by the UN's refugee agency.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said the number of displaced people has surpassed 60 million for the first time in history, and increased significantly since last year, when 59.5 million individuals were classified as displaced.
The record-breaking numbers have created a desperate immigration situation in the Middle East and Europe. Syria and Afghanistan have produced the most refugees, according to UNHCR, and many of them have attempted to reach Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and other countries in Western Europe.
"The dangers to which those who are forcibly displaced are exposed are even greater than in the past. The risks are rising, and they're rising in many places, not just here in Europe," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. "Ninety percent of the forcibly displaced are displaced in poor or middle-income countries, not in the rich world, contrary to the perception that most people, certainly in the rich world, have."
Thousands of migrants have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea into Europe, and thousands more have been turned away from European borders. Over half of the refugees are children, according to the report, and many of them are traveling alone.
Despite the fact that less than 15 percent of refugees are in Europe and the United States, the surge has led to increased resentment and fear of foreigners across Europe and the United States, with anti-migrant rallies in some countries drawing thousands of demonstrators. More than half the governors of US states have attempted to block the resettlement of Syrian refugees, citing fears of radical Islam.
"Refugees, displaced people very often go into environments that are very hostile: the rise of xenophobia is unfortunately becoming a very defining feature of the environment in which we work," Grandi said.
Grandi also said he believes this is an opportunity for the world's leaders to come together to advocate for the displaced, especially since much of the displacement has been caused by wars that involve Western nations, such as in Afghanistan and Syria.
"I think what the refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean and arriving on the shores of Europe, the message that I have carried is that, if you don't solve problems, problems will come to you," Grandi said. "That's a powerful message. It's a painful message, and it's painful that it has taken so long for people in the rich countries to understand that. But I think it's a call for action, it's a call for looking at solutions, let me say first of all responses, and then solutions, with a different eye."
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