A total of 51.2 million people were forced to leave their homes in countries like Syria, the Central African Republic and South Sudan, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a report released today, 20 June 2014, as the world commemorates World Refugee Day.
UNHCR’s annual Global Trends report, which is based on data compiled by governments, non-governmental partner organisations, and from the organisation’s own records, shows 51.2 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of 2013, fully six million more than the 45.2 million reported in 2012.
This number, which includes refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people worldwide, has for the first time in the post-World War II, exceeded 50 million people, the UN refugee agency said.
The report said this massive increase was driven mainly by the war in Syria, which at the end of last year had forced 2.5 million people into becoming refugees and made 6.5 million internally displaced. Major new displacement was also seen in Africa – notably in Central African Republic, and towards the end of 2013 in South Sudan too.
“We are seeing here the immense costs of not ending wars, of failing to resolve or prevent conflict,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said in a statement posted on the organisation’s website.
“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.”
The worldwide total of 51.2 million forcibly displaced represents a huge number of people in need of help, with implications both for foreign aid budgets in the world’s donor nations and the absorption and hosting capacities of countries on the front lines of refugee crises, the UN said.
“The international community has to overcome its differences and find solutions to the conflicts of today in South Sudan, Syria, Central African Republic and elsewhere. Non-traditional donors need to step up alongside traditional donors. As many people are forcibly displaced today as the entire populations of medium-to-large countries such as Colombia or Spain, South Africa or South Korea,” Guterres pointed out.
(Issued by UNHCR, final editing by Issa Sikiti da Silva). Photo: DR Congo women and children fleeing fighting in North Kivu province. Credit: UN