LONDON: The number of people forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution reached a record high last year, the United Nations said in a report released Thursday.
Syria overtook Afghanistan to become the world’s biggest source of refugees, the U.N. refugee agency said.
A “staggering” 59.5 million people were forcibly displaced by the end of 2014, compared with 51.2 million in 2013 and 37.5 million a decade ago, the United Nations said.
The annual Global Trends Report: World at War said one of every 122 people in the world are either internally displaced, refugees or seeking asylum.
The situation is likely to get worse, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres warned, pointing to crises in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Burundi and elsewhere.
“We are witnessing a paradigm change, an unchecked slide into an era in which the scale of global forced displacement, as well as the response required, is now clearly dwarfing anything seen before,” Guterres said.
“It is terrifying that on the one hand, there is more and more impunity for those starting conflicts, and on the other, there is seeming utter inability of the international community to work together to stop wars and build and preserve peace,” he said.
The U.N. agency counted nearly 3.9 million Syrian refugees in 107 countries last year, the fourth year of Syria’s civil war. That made it the leading source of refugees — pushing Afghanistan, which held that status for more than 30 years, to second place with 2.6 million refugees.
Turkey became the world’s biggest refugee host with 1.59 million refugees, the report said. Pakistan, which held that position for more than a decade, was second with 1.51 million.
In recent months, thousands have made the perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea from North Africa to Europe, fleeing conflict and poverty in parts of Africa and the Middle East. Minority Rohingya Muslims escaping persecution in Burma have been given temporary refuge by Indonesia and Malaysia after apparently being abandoned at sea by human traffickers.
The war in Syria has been the main reason for the surge in internally displaced people and refugees since 2011, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said. The next biggest sources of refugees are Afghanistan and Somalia. Hundreds of thousands are fleeing conflicts in Libya, northeastern Nigeria, Iraq, Yemen, Ukraine, Burma and Pakistan, the report said.