The number of people who have had to flee from violence and crises has climbed above 50 million for the first time since the Second World War, the U.N. refugee agency said on Friday in Geneva.
The total number of refugees and people displaced within their own countries reached 51.2 million by the end of 2013, an increase of 6 million compared to the previous year.
The situation was especially dramatic in Syria, the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said in its annual trends report.
Some 6.5 million people have been internally displaced in the country, while a further 2.5 million have crossed Syria’s borders to flee the civil war.
In addition, new crises in South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Ukraine and Iraq had forced more people from their homes, while Palestinians, Afghans and Somalis who fled in previous years make up the bulk of the global count.
“Conflicts emerge and dramatic relations of human rights appear, and the international community has lost much of its capacity to prevent conflict situations and to timely solve them,” High Commissioner Antonio Guterres said.
The U.N. Security Council was deadlocked on many issues, resulting in chaotic situations in which conflict parties are able to continue without having to fear prosecution, he said.
Developing countries are hosting 86 per cent of the world’s refugees, the report showed.
With 1.6 million refugees, Pakistan is currently the biggest host country, followed by Iran and Lebanon.
Of the 1.1 million people who sought refugee status last year, 10 per cent did so in Germany.
The United States, South Africa, France and Sweden complete the list of the top five countries registering the most asylum claims.
More than half of the global claims were filed by Syrians, followed by citizens from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Myanmar.
The U.N. agency said it was especially concerned about the rising numbers of children who have to flee.
More than half of the global refugees were younger than 18 last year, the highest rate in a decade. Children from Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria are the largest groups in this category.
The reported also pointed to the record 25,300 unaccompanied children who sought refuge in foreign countries without their parents in 2013.