WATCH: More than 68 million people forced from their homes in 2017, UN finds

On average, one person is displaced every two seconds

WATCH: More than 68 million people forced from their homes in 2017, UN finds

A family flee violence in Kamonia, Kasai Province, the Democratic Republic of the Congo | Image: © UNHCR/John Wessels

The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR says record numbers of men, women and children were uprooted worldwide last year due to wars, violence and persecution.

Its annual Global Trends survey found 68.5 million people had been driven from their homes across the world at the end of 2017 - that is more people than the population of Thailand.

The report is published worldwide each year ahead of World Refugee Day on June 20th, and tracks forced displacement based on data gathered by UNHCR, governments, and other partners.

The agency says this makes a new global deal on refugees "more critical than ever".

Refugees who have fled their countries to escape conflict and persecution accounted for 25.4 million.

This is 2.9 million more than in 2016 - also it is the biggest increase UNHCR has ever seen in a single year.

New displacement is also growing, with 16.2 million people displaced during 2017 itself, either for the first time or repeatedly.

That is an average of one person displaced every two seconds. And it is overwhelmingly developing countries that are most affected.

Source: UNHCR

Leading the displacement during the year was the crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the war in South Sudan and the flight into Bangladesh from Myanmar of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees.

Among them was grandmother Mutaybatu (55) who fled on foot.

"We walked for 10 days and then we crossed over by boat," she said, speaking in a refugee settlement in Bangladesh.

"It was a journey of hardship, we had no food, we ate occasionally what we could find like herbs and weeds, leaves of trees."

Rohingya refugee Mutaybatu (55) holds her adopted granddaughter at a shelter in southeast Bangladesh | Image: © UNHCR/Patrick Brown

The number of asylum-seekers awaiting the outcome of their applications for refugee status had also risen by about 300,000, to 3.1 million, by the end of December 2017.

People displaced inside their own country accounted for 40 million of the total - slightly fewer than the 40.3 million in 2016.

Lebanon hosted the largest number of refugees relative to its national population.

In all, 63% of all refugees under UNHCR’s responsibility were in just 10 countries.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi says: "We are at a watershed, where success in managing forced displacement globally requires a new and far more comprehensive approach so that countries and communities aren’t left dealing with this alone."

Source: UNHCR

However, Mr Grandi found hope in a new blueprint for responding to refugee situations, pioneered by 14 countries.

A new Global Compact on Refugees, seeking closer international cooperation in response to refugee crises, will be ready for adoption by the United Nations General Assembly in a matter of months.

"No one becomes a refugee by choice; but the rest of us can have a choice about how we help.

"Today, on the eve of World Refugee Day, my message to member states is please support this.

"No one becomes a refugee by choice; but the rest of us can have a choice about how we help."

Read the full report here