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UNHCR: More people displaced in 2017 than ever before

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UNHCR: More people displaced in 2017 than ever before

Rohingya Muslim refugees in Myanmar
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Kristiana Marton/Save the Children/Handout via REUTERS
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Ahead of World Refugee Day on the 20th of June, the UN's Refugee Agency reveals that more people were displaced in 2017 than ever before.

In its annual report on refugee trends, the UNHCR say that 68.5 million people were forcibly displaced in 2017, the highest figure on record. That's the fifth year in a row that the figure has gone up, driven by violence in the Congo, South Sudan and Myanmar.

World Refugee Day is being marked across the world with a Refugee Food Festival, as part of which restaurants open their kitchens to refugee chefs to promote integration. Fourteen cities are participating, including Paris, New York, San Francisco and Cape Town.

Brussels is also taking part for the second year in a row, where Syrian refugee Abdelbasset Alheeshan has been showcasing his cookery skills and a variety of Levantine dishes at Chez Franz.

"I always remember the old saying: people are enemies of the unknown," he says. "That is why we have some barriers, some boundaries between each other. But the food industry, for example, brings people together. So this kind of initiatives is very important for integration".

He found refuge in Belgium after fleeing Syria eighteen months ago and hopes that the experience of cooking at the festival will help him find a new career and a way to earn a living.

He had managed a business back in Damascus, and says he has no wish to "spend [his] whole life sitting at home and taking money from the government."

According to the UNHCR, more than half of all displaced people are children. The overwhelming majority of refugees (85%) are also hosted by other developing nations. Turkey has the most, with 3.5 million refugees. Germany has more than any other EU country with just under a million refugees, but still has fewer than Pakistan, Uganda, Lebanon, Iran and of course the aforementioned Turkey.

The agency's representative for EU affairs, Sophie Magennis, told Euronews: "We need a solidarity mechanism which can help all member states work together to provide protection for those who need it and to proper manage asylum and refugee matters in Europe"