The new report was issued at a time when governments in Europe and the United States have become increasingly resistant to accepting more refugees and asylum seekers as xenophobic political trends have helped feed hostility and mistrust.
The Trump administration has vowed to restrict refugees and toughen immigration through “extreme vetting” and a proposed suspension of visas for people from six predominantly Muslim nations. Anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe has roiled the politics in Britain, Hungary, the Netherlands, France, Italy and Germany, among others.
The 2016 report showed that the number of refugees worldwide reached 22.5 million, the most ever. More people fled the conflict in Syria — 5.5 million — than any other country, but the biggest new source of refugees was what the report called “the disastrous breakdown of peace efforts” in South Sudan. Nearly 750,000 people fled that fledgling country last year.
Among the refugees, asylum seekers — people who have fled their country and are seeking international protection — totaled 2.8 million by the end of 2016.
There were 40.3 million people displaced inside their own countries at the end of 2016, slightly fewer than the 40.8 million at the end of 2015. The report attributed that slight reduction in part to people who had returned to their homes, offsetting the number of new people who had fled. Still, the report said, many returnees “did so in less than ideal circumstances and facing uncertain prospects.”
Of the 65.6 million displaced people in the world, 10.3 million had become displaced in 2016. “This equates to one person becoming displaced every three seconds,” the report said, “less than the time it takes to read this sentence.”
About two-thirds of the newly displaced people fled somewhere else in their own country. The report showed that 84 percent of all refugees who crossed borders went to low- or middle-income countries at…