UNHCR: Global forced displacement at an 18-year high

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Syrian refugee woman holds her child

Over 7.6 million people were forcibly displaced from their homes in 2012, according to the United Nations refugee agency, (UNHCR).

The agency says 1.1 million were forced to flee across national borders as refugees, while 6.5 million were internally displaced in their countries.

UNHCR says the rate of displacement in 2012 is the highest in nearly 20 years.

War remains the dominant cause of displacement with 55 per cent of all refugees coming from five war-affected countries including Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Syria and Sudan.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres says the growing pace of displacement reflects the difficulties the international community faces in preventing and resolving conflicts.

"Eighty-seven per cent of the world’s refugees are protected by countries in the developing world. So when we see sometimes the discussions about refugees in many developed countries, I think it is good to remind the public opinions of those countries that refugees are not people fleeing from poor countries into rich countries in search of a better life.  No, refugees are essentially people that had to flee because they were forced to, and most of them live in some of the poorest countries of the world. In 2012, we had only about 650,000 refugees that had fled the Syrian conflict. We have now more than 1.6 million which means that the number of refugees that fled from Syria since the first of January is more or less the same amount or the total amount of refugees that fled all over the world during 2012. This gives you an idea of how dramatic the Syrian crisis is."

Mr Guterres says nearly half of all refugees are children below the age of 18.

He says the number of unaccompanied children seeking asylum was rapidly increasing with a record 21,333 application submitted in 2012.

Patrick Maigua, United Nations Radio, Geneva.

Duration 2.09″

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