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World needs ‘spirit of unity’ after number of displaced people hits record high, says UN refugee agency

The number of displaced people worldwide hit a record high in 2015, according to a UN refugee agency report released Monday. The agency estimates 65.3 million individuals were forced from their homes last year — nearly 6 million more people than in 2014. The UN numbers include, but is not limited to refugees.

“We are facing the biggest refugee and displacement crisis of our time,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement. “Above all, this is not just a crisis of numbers. It is also a crisis of solidarity.”

According to the report, which was released on the UN World Refugee Day, about half of all refugees were children at the end of 2015. The total number of unaccompanied or separated children who applied for asylum worldwide almost tripled, from 34,300 in 2014 to 98,400 in 2015.

The UN blames ongoing civil war in countries including Syria and Sudan, as well as the rise of the Islamic State, for the sharp increase of displaced individuals.

“More people are being displaced by war and persecution, and that’s worrying in itself, but the factors that endanger refugees are multiplying, too,” Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said in a statement.

Grandi also urged the international community to put refugees and asylum seekers before politics.

“The willingness of nations to work together not just for refugees but for the collective human interest is what’s being tested today, and it’s this spirit of unity that badly needs to prevail,” he said.