Oslo - Over 8.6 million people were internally displaced due to violence and conflict in 2015, with Yemen, Syria and Iraq accounting for more than half the total number, according to a new report.
The report, released on Wednesday by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), said displacement has snowballed since the Arab Spring protests began in 2010 and the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group.
About 4.8 million people were internally displaced in the Middle East and North Africa, adding to millions of people who fled their homes in the previous years and have not left their countries.
Yemen, where an Arab coalition assembled by Saudi Arabia is fighting Houthi rebels, had 2 509 000 internally displaced people (IDPs) as of 31 December 2015.
Of those, 2.2 million were registered in 2015 alone, a 20-fold increase over 2014 figures.
"As the world’s attention focused on the flow of refugees out of the region, millions were displaced internally in the Middle East, more than in the rest of the world combined," Carsten Hansen, NRC's regional director in the Middle East, said.
"While richer, stable countries have been scheming to keep asylum-seekers out of their borders and deny them protection, millions remain trapped in their own countries with death just around the corner."
Syria's IDP figure stands at 6 600 000, of which the number of people displaced in 2015 alone was 1.3 million which is an 18% increase over 2014.
In neighbouring Iraq, the 2015 figure was 1.1 million, with the report pointing to the rise of ISIL as the reason. The total number of IDPs in the country is 3 290 000.
Displaced by natural disasters
Outside the Middle East, the countries with the highest numbers of people fleeing included Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, South Sudan and Ukraine.
The report also said 19.2 million people were internally displaced last year by natural disasters. India, China and Nepal accounted for the highest numbers with 3.7 million, 3.6 million and 2.6 million respectively.
Conflicts and natural disasters combined to make a total of 27.8 million new IDPs last year.
"This is the equivalent of the combined populations of New York City, London, Paris and Cairo grabbing what they can carry, often in a state of panic, and setting out on a journey filled with uncertainty," Jan Egeland, the head of the NRC, said.
"Put another way, around 66 000 people abandoned their homes every day of 2015."
Out of the top 10 countries for IDPs, the report found that Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, South Sudan and Sudan have featured on the same ranking every year since 2003.