Subscribe

Worldwide refugee numbers reach record high, UN reports

The United Nations estimates that about 60 million people have been displaced by conflict, Syria is the world's biggest source of internally displaced people and refugees.

  • close
    Syrian refugee children from the northern Syrian town of Tel Abyad sit under a make shift tent pitched up next to a truck in Turkey, Thursday. Almost 60 million people worldwide were forcibly uprooted by conflict and persecution at the end of last year, the highest ever recorded number, the U.N. refugee agency said on Thursday.
    Umit Bektas/Reuters
    View Caption
  • About video ads
    View Caption
of

Syria overtook Afghanistan to become the world's biggest source of refugees last year, while the number of people forced from their homes by conflicts worldwide rose to a record 59.5 million, the United Nations'refugee agency said Thursday.

Pointing to crises in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Burundi and elsewhere, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said he doesn't expect any improvement in 2015.

"There is a multiplication of new crises," he said. "The Iraq-Syria crisis gained the dimension of a mega one ... and at the same time the old crises have no solutions."

Recommended: Why no safe zone in Syria, yet? 5 complications

The report comes at a time when Europe is grappling with how to deal with a flood of new migrants crossing the Mediterranean to escape fighting in Syria, Libya and elsewhere.

UNHCR estimated that a total of 59.5 million people worldwide had been displaced by conflict by the end of last year — including 38.2 million displaced within their own countries. That was up from 51.2 million in 2013 — the previous highest since the U.N. began collecting numbers in the early 1950s. Syria alone accounted for 11.6 million of those people, the biggest single figure.

The agency counted nearly 3.9 million Syrian refugees in 107 countries last year, the fourth year of the country's civil war. That made it the leading source of refugees — pushing Afghanistan, which had held that status for more than 30 years, down to second place with 2.6 million refugees.

Syria's northern neighbor, Turkey, became the world's biggest refugee host with 1.59 million refugees. Pakistan, which had held that position for more than a decade, was second with 1.51 million.

Over the course of last year, only 126,800 refugees returned to their home countries — the lowest number since 1983. The countries to which most people returned were Congo, Mali and Afghanistan.

Guterres said he was alarmed by "a staggering acceleration" in the number of people being forced from their homes over recent years.

Speaking in Istanbul on Thursday, he singled out richer countries such as those in Europe and the Persian Gulf as he appealed for "all countries in the world to have their doors open." He said they also should offer more legal avenues for people who need protection to enter.

Turkey's willingness to open its borders "has a special meaning in a world where so many borders are closed or restricted, and where new walls are being built or announced," Guterres said, speaking the day after Hungary said it was planning to build a fence along its border with Serbia to keep out a flow of migrants.

For many of those who have fled, home still beckons.

Maher Al Khedrawi, one of the many Syrians who have left for Turkey, said in a recent interview with The Associated Press that he looked forward to returning to his country, a sentiment he said was shared by millions of others. The 40-year-old warehouse supervisor rejects the label of "refugee."

"Hopefully, our home will be rebuilt and stabilized again," he said. "I'll be among the first people who go back. There is no place like home."

___

Raphael Satter and Ayse Wieting in Istanbul contributed to this report.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

About these ads
Sponsored Content by LockerDome
 
 
Make a Difference
Inspired? Here are some ways to make a difference on this issue.
FREE Newsletters
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.
 

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK