GENEVA, Switzerland — June 20. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) reported on World Refugee Day that the number of refugees, asylum-seekers, and internationally displaced people worldwide has exceeded the number of refugees during the post-World War II era. The current number of refugees today exceeds over 50 million people.
This enormous increase was driven predominately by the war in Syria, wherein 2.5 million people became refugees and 6.5 million were displaced within the country. Apart from Syria, there was also a major displacement in Africa—mainly in South Sudan and the Central African Republic.
The largest population of displaced refugees worldwide are Afghans, Syrians, and Somalis, accounting for more than half of the global refugee total. The world’s top hosts of refugees last year were Pakistan, Iran, and Lebanon.
Human rights campaign groups, such as Amnesty International, are frustrated, and have stated that wealthier nations need to be doing more, as most refugees are being hosted in poorer countries.
6 million more people have been recorded as being displaced since 2012. The data is compiled from governments, non-governmental organizations, and from the UNHCR’s own records.
While the human rights issue of displacement is clear, refugees mean implications for foreign aid budgets as well as hosting capacity for countries taking in refugees. In addition to refugees, last year, 1.1 million people submitted applications for asylum. The majority were seeking refuge in developed countries.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees explained the crucial need for political solutions to refugee problems, stating, “We are seeing the immense costs of not ending wars, of failing to resolve or prevent conflict. 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 continue.”
The UNHCR provides shelter, food, water, protection, and medical care to 34.5 million people, worldwide, who have been forced to flee their homes due to war and persecution. However, helping these people can be a challenge, as many are in the midst of conflict zones.
UNHCR’s goal is to find long-term solutions for displaced people, including local integration, or resettlement in another country. Many refugees voluntarily return to their home countries, if it is safe to do so.
Founded in 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly, UNHCR has helped an estimated 50 million people re-start their lives. While this is an incredible feat, with at least 51.2 million people currently displaced as of 2013, it seems that UNHCR has their work cut out for them.