The number of refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people worldwide has exceeded 50 million for the first time since the end of World War II, according a report by United Nation’s High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) released Friday.
The report shows 51.2 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of 2013, six million more than the 45.2 million reported in 2012.
The war in Syria is the main reason behind the massive increase. It had forced 2.5 million people into becoming refugees and made 6.5 million internally displaced at the end of last year.
In addition, major new displacement was seen in Africa, particularly in Central African Republic and South Sudan, the report said.
“Afghanistan, the Syrian Arab Republic and Somalia were the top three source countries of refugees at the end of 2013, together accounting for more than half [53 per cent] of all refugees under UNHCR’s responsibility,” it said.
“We are seeing here the immense costs of not ending wars, of failing to resolve or prevent conflict,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres.
“Peace is today dangerously in deficit. Humanitarians can help as a palliative but political solutions are vitally needed. Without this, the alarming levels of conflict and the mass suffering that is reflected in these figures will continue.”
By region, Asia and the Pacific had the largest refugee population of 3.5 million. Sub-Saharan Africa had 2.9 million while the Middle East and North Africa had 2.6 million, the report said.
There are three main solutions for people who become forcibly displaced, including voluntary return, local integration or resettlement in third countries.
Last year saw voluntary return of 414,600 people, the fourth lowest level of refugee returns in almost a quarter century. About 98,400 refugees were resettled in 21 countries.
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