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Global Displaced Persons Highest Since World War Two

UN report through 2013 finds 'quantum leap' in number of displaced persons, breaks 50 million for first time since WWII.
By Ari Yashar
First Publish: 6/20/2014, 11:56 AM

Internally-displaced refugees in Cameroon (file)
Internally-displaced refugees in Cameroon (file)
Reuters

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees released its 2013 Global Trends report on Friday, finding that the number of displaced persons is now the highest it's been since World War Two.

The report, which covered statistics through the end of 2013, found that the "number of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people worldwide has, for the first time in the post-World War II era, exceeded 50 million people."

A full 51.2 million people were left forcibly displaced, up by 6 million from the 45.2 million displaced persons in 2012.

"We are witnessing a quantum leap in forced displacement in the world," said UNHCR chief António Guterres in presenting the findings.

Afghanistan leads the way with 2.56 million refugees, closely followed by Syria at 2.47 million refugees. However, a UN report in February predicted that Syria likely will overtake Afghanistan by the end of 2014. Coming in third was Somalia at 1.12 million refugees and Sudan at 649,300 refugees. 

Trends indicate the numbers will only swell further in 2014, as Iraq is listed 7th in the report at 401,400 refugees. That number has reportedly doubled since the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) began its blitz conquest of Iraq, with CNN reporting that Iraq now has over 1.1 million refugees.

"As many people are forcibly displaced today as the entire populations of medium-to-Iarge countries such as Colombia or Spain, South Africa or South Korea," noted Guterres, adding that if displaced people had their own country, it would be the 24th most populous in the world.

"We are seeing here the immense costs of not ending wars, of failing to resolve or prevent conflict," added Guterres. "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."

In addition to refugees, the report cited a drastic rise of internal displacement in which people are forced to flee to other parts of their country. That number now stands at a record 33.3 million people.

The report listed 16.7 million refugees worldwide, including 5 million registered under the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), a special UN organization tasked specifically with supporting "Palestinian refugees" - the descendants of Arab residents who left Israel in 1948.

The group has been criticized as perpetuating the "refugee" status of its registrants, as well as radicalizing them.

UNRWA began activities in 1950 to provide aid to the roughly 700,000 Arabs who left Israel during the War of Independence, as an entirely separate entity from the UNHCR. No UN organization was established to aid the nearly 1 million Jewish refugees who fled or were expelled from Arab countries following 1948.