If all the world’s refugees came together as a single nation they would collectively create one of the largest countries on Earth.

According to the UNHCR, there are now almost 70 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, around 1% of the world's population – the highest number in modern history.

The number of refugees has steadily increased since 1951 but has jumped dramatically in the last 10 years. That’s mostly because of the Syrian civil war which began in 2011 and has since forced millions to flee their homes and seek refuge in neighbouring countries and in Europe.

The most recent Global Peace Index, an annual report produced by Australian think tank the Institute for Economics and Peace, has found that for the fourth year in a row, overall levels of peace around the world have deteriorated.

Ninety-two countries have seen declining peace, while 71 countries have improved.

Falling peace

Image: IEP

Increased terrorist activity, conflicts in the Middle East and rising tensions in Eastern Europe and north-east Asia have all contributed to declining levels of peace.

Even the most peaceful regions in the world according to the index – Europe, North America, Asia-Pacific, and South America – have all recorded declines.

The rising number of refugees and heightened political tensions in Europe and the US have meant that even stable countries have seen their scores lowered. For instance, 23 out of 36 countries in Europe deteriorated last year.

Now in its seventh year of civil war, Syria is the least peaceful country in the world, along with Afghanistan, South Sudan, Iraq and Somalia.

The global flashpoint continues to be the Middle East, the world’s least peaceful region.

Iceland is the most peaceful country in the world, followed by New Zealand, Austria, Portugal and Denmark.

The rise of refugees

Image: UNHCR

Many indicators show that we live in a more peaceful world: There are significantly fewer deaths due to conflict, there is a much higher number of alliances between countries, there are more democracies around the world, and there are fewer armed forces. However, the nature of conflict is changing.

The last decade has seen an increasing number of civil wars. In 2015, there were 52 armed conflicts in the world, mainly in the Middle East and North Africa, including civil wars in Yemen, Syria and South Sudan.

When wars happen within borders civilians become extremely vulnerable. The increase in internal conflicts helps to explain the massive increase in the number of refugees, internally displaced people and stateless people in recent years.