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UN Says World Refugees At 18-Year High

A child at a camp for returning refugees in Qala-e Qul Mohammad on the outskirts of Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan, in April
The United Nations refugee agency says the number of refugees and displaced people around the world rose to 45.2 million last year – the most in 18 years.

In its annual “Global Trends” report, the UNHCR said the increase was fueled by conflicts in Syria, Mali, and elsewhere.

Worldwide, it said some 7.6 million people were forced to flee their homes in 2012 – or about one person every four seconds.

It is the highest recorded number of refugees and internally displaced people since 1994 -- a year that included the Rwandan genocide and a middle year of the bloodshed in former Yugoslavia.

The UNHCR said that in Syria in 2012, the number of internally displaced people rose to 4.25 million. It said some 1.6 million Syrians have fled the country.

Antonio Guterres, the UN high commissioner for refugees, said that last year, 55 percent of all refugees and internally displaced people came from Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Sudan, and Syria.

Guterres said of the report: "These truly are alarming numbers. They reflect individual suffering on a huge scale and they reflect the difficulties of the international community in preventing conflicts and promoting timely solutions for them."

The report said Afghanistan remains the world's top producer of refugees -- a position it has held for the past 32 years.

It said Afghanistan had the most refugees of any group worldwide in 2012, with 2.6 million.

It said that on average, one out of every four refugees worldwide is Afghan, with 95 percent of them located in Pakistan or Iran.

Somalia was the world's second largest refugee-producing nation during 2012, followed by Iraq and Syria.

The report added that children below the age of 18 make up 46 percent of all refugees.

It said that a record 21,300 asylum applications submitted during 2012 were from children who were unaccompanied by parents, or had been separated from their mothers and fathers.

The report said Pakistan continues to host the most refugees of any nation, 1.6 million, followed by Iran, with 868,200, and Germany, with 589,700.

The report said that because of fresh crises, the total number of refugees grew higher last year, despite the return to their homes of 2.1 million internally displaced people and 526,000 refugees, and the resettlement of more than 88,000 in wealthy nations.
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