World’s displaced hits record high of 60 mln: U.N.

More than half the displaced from crises including Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia were children

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The U.N. refugee agency said on Thursday that almost 60 million people worldwide, the highest ever recorded number, were forcibly uprooted by conflict and persecution at the end of last year.

More than half the displaced from crises including Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia were children, UNHCR said in its annual Global Trends Report.

In 2014, an average of 42,500 people became refugees, asylum seekers, or internally displaced every day, representing a four-fold increase in just four years, the aid agency said.

“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,” said U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres in a statement.

UNHCR said Syria where conflict has raged since 2011, was the world’s biggest source of internally displaced people and refugees.

There were 7.6 million displaced people in Syria by the end of last year and almost 4 million Syrian refugees, mainly living in the neighboring countries of Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

“Even amid such sharp growth in numbers, the global distribution of refugees remains heavily skewed away from wealthier nations and towards the less wealthy,” UNHCR said.

Guterres told reporters in Istanbul at the launch of UNHCR’s annual report that the world had a universal responsibility to protect the refugees.

“It is important that the European Union, like the Gulf Countries, like other parts of the world, also open their borders,” he said.

He said Turkey’s generosity has a special meaning in a world where “so many borders are closed or restricted and where new walls are being built or announced.”

“This should force everyone to follow this example,” he said.

“It is not only (a responsibility) of Turkey, of Lebanon or of Jordan,” said Guterres, referring to two other countries which have also taken in large numbers of Syrian refugees.

“It is a global responsibility,” he said.

Turkey has pursued an “open-door” policy championed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan towards Syrian refugees, which Ankara has continued even amid increasing social strains.

Meanwhile, UNHCR said there were 38.2 million displaced by conflict within national borders, almost five million more than a year before, with wars in Ukraine, South Sudan, Nigeria, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo swelling the figures.

Of the 19.5 million refugees living outside their home countries, 5.1 million are Palestinians. Syrians, Somalis and Afghans make up more than half the remaining 14.4 million refugees, UNHCR said.

It also noted that more than 1.6 million people sought political asylum in a foreign country last year, a jump of more than 50 percent compared to the previous year - largely due to the 270,000 Ukrainians who submitted asylum claims in Russia.

While many conflicts have erupted or reignited in the past five years, few have been conclusively resolved. Just 126,800 refugees were able to return home in 2014, the lowest number in 31 years, UNHCR said.

“It is now absolutely clear that we are not able to deliver,” Guterres said. “It is time for the international community to assume its responsibilities.”

(With Reuters and AFP)

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