More refugees in 2012 than for 20 years, says UN

Germany the only developed country among top 10 states taking refugees in

Refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria arrive at the Jordanian border. Photograph: Jordan Pix/Getty Images

Refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria arrive at the Jordanian border. Photograph: Jordan Pix/Getty Images

 


More people fled war, persecution or famine last year than in any year for nearly two decades, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

More than 45.2 million people were displaced in 2012, almost three million more than in the previous year.

War in five countries – Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Syria and Sudan – was the reason 55 per cent of those displaced were forced to flee .

The conflict in Syria prompted the biggest exodus, of 647,000 people, which was the highest number fleeing since the 1999 war in Kosovo.

But Afghans still make up the biggest number of refugees, as they have done for the past 32 years, now standing at almost 2.6 million living in 82 countries.

UNHCR: largest refugee sources (red), hosts (purple), both (Syria)

Somalia produces the second-highest number of refugees at 1.1 million people, followed by Iraq at nearly 750,000 people and Syria at almost 730,000 people.

The figures, to be published today by the UNHCR in its Global Trends 2012 report, show there is a new refugee or internally displaced person every 4.1 seconds. Children accounted for 46 per cent of the world’s refugees.

Suffering on grand scale
The numbers were “alarming” and showed “suffering on a huge scale”, said António Guterres, UN high commissioner for refugees, ahead of the report’s publication.

Germany, with nearly 590,000 refugees, was the only developed country among the top 10 states hosting displaced people, with developing countries taking in 80 per cent of the world’s refugees. The world’s poorest countries hosted almost a quarter of the world’s refugees.

Pakistan has the most refugees at 1.64 million, mainly Afghans, followed by Iran with almost 830,000 refugees, also mainly from Afghanistan. Syria still has a high number of mainly Iraqi refugees at 480,000. This figure is down from 750,000 refugees in Syria in 2011.

Turkey recorded the most dramatic increase in refugees last year as a result of more than 300,000 Syrians arriving during the year who were given temporary protection by the Ankara government. Almost 70,000 Syrians were returned before the end of 2012.

Sub-Saharan Africa
In sub-Saharan Africa the number of refugees increased last year for the third year in a row. Conflict and drought in Somalia prompted 75,000 people to flee to Ethiopia, Yemen and Kenya. Nearly 770,000 Somalis – 8 per cent of the population – have left the country in the last six years.

Renewed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo saw one million people flee to other parts of the country while thousands also left for Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.

War in Mali prompted 143,000 people to flee while ongoing conflict in Sudan saw 112,500 people leave home.

Jordan had the highest number of refugees per 1,000 inhabitants at 49, followed by Chad at 33 refugees and Lebanon at 32.


Asylum seekers
The 45.2 million people displaced last year included 15.4 million recognised refugees, 937,000 asylum seekers and 28.8 million people forced to flee within the borders of their own countries.

Last year saw the highest number of internally displaced people ever recorded, with Syria, Democratic Republic of Congo and Colombia having the most displacement of inhabitants within their borders.

The US received the largest number of asylum applications at 70,400, followed by Germany (64,500), South Africa (61,500), and France (55,100).

Norway and Switzerland had the highest rate of granting refugee status to asylum seekers at 56 and 55 per cent respectively.