By Anthony H. Cordesman
The total number of refugees has increased significantly and consistently over the past four years. Starting from 10.4 million at the end of 2011, the number increased to 10.5 million in 2012, to 11.7 million in 2013, and finally to 14.4 million by the end of 2014. By mid-2015, it had reached an estimated 15.1 million, its highest level in 20 years. Within three and a half years, then, the global refugee population grew by 4.7 million persons –some 45 per cent.
The main contributing factor to this trend has been the war in the Syrian Arab Republic. Excluding that country, the increase from the end of 2011 to mid-2015 would have been only half a million refugees (+5%). Clearly, the devastating effect of the Syrian conflict is being felt far beyond its neighbouring countries.
The Syrian Arab Republic remained the largest source country of refugees, with a refugee population of 4.2 million by mid-2015. This figure has increased dramatically, rising from below 20,000 at the end of 2010. As such, starting in mid-2014,, the Syrian Arab Republic replaced Afghanistan as the main source country of refugees worldwide, ,a rank Afghanistan had previously held for more than three decades.The Syrian refugee population grew by more than 300,000 people during the reporting period. The Afghan refugee population remained relatively stable at about 2.6 million.
Surrounding countries continue to be impacted heavily by the crisis, with the number of registered Syrians in Turkey (1.8 million),Lebanon (1.2 million), Jordan (628,800), Iraq (251,300), and Egypt (131,900) remaining high. Outside the immediate region, Germany was hosting 66,000 Syrian refugees at mid-2015, up from 41,000 six months earlier.
During the first half of the year, at least 4.2 million persons were newly displaced by conflict and violence within their countries, compared to 4.1 million in the corresponding period of 2014.,Yemen reported the largest number of newly displaced persons (933,500),(16) followed by Ukraine (559,000), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (558,000), Nigeria (378,500), Iraq (366,500), and Pakistan (309,200).
The number of newly displaced persons within the Syrian Arab Republic was not available for the first six months of 2015. However, with 7.6 million IDPs, the Syrian Arab Republic remained the country with the highest such number worldwide. Despite security concerns, UNHCR was able to assist an estimated 1.3 million of these individuals by mid-2015. According to the Government, 6.5 million individuals were registered as IDPs in Colombia at mid-year. Other countries where significant IDP populations were protected or assisted by UNHCR included Iraq (4.0 million), Sudan (2.3 million), Pakistan (1.6 million), South Sudan (1.5 million), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (1.5 million),(17) Nigeria (1.4 million), and Ukraine (1.4 million). Afghanistan too has seen a surge in internal displacement of some 50 per cent compared to 18 months ago as conflict intensified, reaching a figure of 948,000 IDPs by mid-2015.