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Global number of refugees reaches 65 million, UN says

FILE - In this Sept. 20, 2016 file photo, migrants run as they cross the border from Croatia near the village of Zakany, Hungary. In a year when more than a million people arrived on European shores, UNHCR said Monday, June 20, 2016 that continued conflic
FILE - In this Sept. 20, 2016 file photo, migrants run as they cross the border from Croatia near the village of Zakany, Hungary. In a year when more than a million people arrived on European shores, UNHCR said Monday, June 20, 2016 that continued conflicts and persecution in places like Syria and Afghanistan fueled a nearly 10-percent increase in the total number of refugees and internally displaced people in 2015.( (AP Photo/Petr David Josek, File)
Petr David Josek, AP

The United Nations estimates that 65.3 million people were forcibly displaced in 2015 in its annual report honoring the "courage and resilience of families forced to flee war or persecution" on World Refugee Day.

The number of refugees is “the highest since the aftermath of World War II,” the report said, estimating that one in every 113 people on the planet is a refugee, asylum seeker or displaced. That translates to about 24 people being removed from their homes every minute.

Broken down, 21.3 million people in 2015 were refugees, 40.8 million were internally displaced and 3.2 million were seeking asylum.

A little over half of those displaced came from Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia. And the study found that 86 percent found shelter in lower-income nations, like Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon and Ethiopia. Turkey took in the highest number of refugees for the second year in a row with nearly 2.5 million.

NPR reported that a significant portion of people were internally displaced in Yemen, Nigeria and Colombia, and that the war in Syria has heavily contributed to the refugee crisis.

The report also said that half of all refugees are children under 18, and that almost 100,000 children submitted applications for asylum in 2015.

In a statement, Filippo Grande, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, attributed the record number of refugees to "political paralysis."

"Divisive political rhetoric on asylum and migration issues, and disturbing levels of xenophobia, are together threatening the international agreements which protect those forced to flee war or persecution," the statement said.

Grande's noted, however, that 2016 is a "watershed moment for the refugee cause."

"As wars spiral out of control, we feel this must be a year to take collective responsibility and action to end the conflicts which force people to flee and also to help the millions of people whose lives have been destroyed by this violence," he said in the statement.

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Email: sweber@deseretnews.com; Twitter: @sarapweber