11 May 2016
The Middle East has accounted for more than 50 per cent of the world's population internally displaced by conflict in 2015, with nearly 4.8 million new people forced to flee their homes.

Syria, Iraq and Yemen alone account for more than half of the global total of 8.6 million people forcibly displaced by conflict last year. Yemen registered 2.2 million newly displaced in 2015, followed by Syria at 1.3 million and Iraq at 1.1 million.

"As the world's attention focused on the flow of refugees out of the region, millions were displaced internally in the Middle East, more than in the rest of the world combined," said NRC's Regional Director in the Middle East, Carsten Hansen. "While richer, stable countries have been scheming to keep asylum seekers out of their borders and deny them protection, millions remain trapped in their own countries with death staring them just around the corner."

The figures are published today by the Norwegian Refugee Council's Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) in its new Global Report on Internal Displacement (GRID 2016). Yemen, Syria and Iraq top the list of new displacements caused by conflict and violence worldwide.

Last year was by far the worst yet for Yemen as regards displacement, accounting for one quarter (25 per cent) of the conflict-related displacement globally with a staggering 2.2 million forced to flee their homes as a result of the airstrikes. This meant a 20-fold increase over the 2014 figures, and yet it remains a forgotten crisis.

In Syria, the number of people forced to flee represents an 18 per cent increase over 2014, consistent with the overall deteriorating humanitarian situation, active military engagement of four of the five UN Security Council members, and a steep escalation of hostilities on the ground by the government and all armed groups.

More than 1.1 million people were displaced in Iraq last year with the rise of the so-called ISIS and other armed groups. The governorates of Anbar, Baghdad and Dohuk host nearly half of all the country's internally displaced people. As the crisis deepens, the likelihood of them being able to return to their homes becomes dimmer.

The global figure of newly displaced people last year is clear evidence of what has become a real global crisis. At 27.8 million people displaced, "this is the equivalent of the combined populations of New York City, London, Paris and Cairo grabbing what they can carry, often in a state of panic, and setting out on a journey filled with uncertainty," said Jan Egeland, the Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). "Put another way, around 66,000 people abandoned their homes every day of 2015."

The report covers internal displacement caused by conflict and sudden-onset disasters, on which IDMC has been the global authority for years. In addition it now also explores displacement currently "off the grid", such as that caused by criminal and gang violence, slow-onset disasters like drought, and development projects. It also takes the reader "inside the grid" and presents some of the methodological and conceptual challenges faced in trying to paint as complete a picture as possible.

The report makes sobering reading. Some 8.6 million new displacements associated with conflict and violence were recorded in 2015, and as of the end of the year the total including those who fled in previous years stood at 40.8 million. "This is the highest figure ever recorded, and twice the number of refugees worldwide," Egeland said.

Of the 10 countries with the highest number of people displaced by conflict, five - Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, South Sudan and Sudan - have been on the list every year since 2003.

"This is further evidence that in the absence of the help IDPs need, displacement tends to drag on for years and even decades," said the Director of IDMC, Alexandra Bilak. "People who are forced to flee their homes tend to lose everything, and the experience leaves many with deep psychological and physical scars. This report illustrates the many challenges to addressing this global crisis of internal displacement. It also highlights the glaring absence of political solutions to address displacement, and constitutes an important wake-up call to national governments and global policy-makers alike."


NRC has spokespersons in the region, including Yemen, Iraq and Jordan. For interviews or more information please contact:
Jessica Moussan, Communications Manager in the Gulf, Jessica.moussan@nrc.no, +971555641394

© Press Release 2016