Number of refugees passes 50 million

For the first time since the end of World War II, the total number of refugees in the world has risen above 50 million, according to figures released by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The sharp increase in the total number of refugees was in large part the result of the ongoing Syrian civil war, which has forced 2.5 million to flee the country and resulted in 6.5 million internally displaced people. In total, there were some 51.2 million refugees in the world at the end of 2013, an increase of more than six million on the previous year.

Most refugees hail from the world’s worst war zones. Together, Afghans, Syrians, and Somalis make up more than half of the total number of refugees in the world. And with violence continuing in Syria, and perhaps only worsening, the total number of refugees in the world is unlikely to decrease in the near future. Other factors that forced people to leave their homes included climate change, population growth, urbanisation, food insecurity and water scarcity – many of which interacted with and enhanced each other.

Estimated refugee children by region

Estimated refugee children by region

The annual UN high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) global trends report said half the world’s refugees are children, many travelling alone or in groups in a desperate quest for sanctuary, and often falling into the clutches of people traffickers.

The report has found that there are:

Refugees – 16.7 million people worldwide. Apart from 5 million Palestinians, the biggest refugee populations by source country are Afghans, Syrians and Somalis, which together account for half the total. The main host countries were Pakistan, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Eighty-six per cent of the world’s refugees are hosted by developing countries – up from 70% a decade ago.

Asylum seekers – close to 1.2 million people submitted asylum claims, mostly in developed countries. In terms of country of origin, the highest number was from Syria (64,300), followed by the Democratic Republic of Congo (60,400) and Burma (57,400). Germany was the largest recipient.

Internally displaced people – a record 33.3 million were forced to flee their homes but remained within their country’s borders.

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Categories: Africa, Asia, Europe, International politics, Middle East

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