A record 65.6 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide by the end of 2016, reports the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) — a number higher than the U.K.’s entire population.
The figure — 300,000 more than in 2015 — consists of more than 40.3 million internally displaced people, 22.5 million refugees and 2.8 million asylum seekers, according to the UNHCR’s annual Global Trends survey.
The conflict in Syria alone has displaced 12 million people overall, meaning that 65% of the country’s whole population are either internally displaced or have become refugees outside the country. South Sudan saw the fastest-growing population displacement situation in 2016, with a total of 3.3 million people having fled their homes, according to the report.
“By any measure this is an unacceptable number,” said Filipo Grandi, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees. He called the figures a failure of diplomacy, reports BBC News.
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“The world seems to have become unable to make peace,” he said, adding that conflicts old and new are both resulting in forced displacement of people, “a symbol for wars that never end.”
The U.N. is hoping that the striking number of displaced people would encourage wealthy countries to rethink their strategy, according to the BBC — not just in terms of accepting refugees, but also by contributing to reconstruction and promoting peace.