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Record 60 million refugees last year, says UN

‘Out of control’ violence has led to the highest-ever increase of refugees in a single year, says the UN. If 2014’s refugees were grouped together as a nation, it would be the world’s 24th largest.

Conflicts and violence forced a record 59.5 million people from their homes in 2014, with Syria overtaking Afghanistan to become the world´s largest source of refugees, said the United Nations.

Last year saw 8.3 million more refugees and internally-displaced people in the world than in 2013, the highest-ever increase in a single year, according to the UN refugee agency in its report ‘World at War' on Thursday.

If the 59.5 million refugees were lumped together as a nation, it would be the world's 24th largest, and is up from 37.5 million a decade ago.

"We are witnessing a paradigm change, an unchecked slide into an era in which the scale of global forced displacement, as well as the response required, is now clearly dwarfing anything seen before," UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said ahead of the launch of the UNHCR's annual report.

Iraq-Syria conflicts a 'mega' crisis

Highlighting crises in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Burundi and elsewhere, Guterres said he didn't expect any improvement in 2015.

"Things are getting out of control simply because the world seems to be at war," Guterres said, stressing that the conflicts in Syria and Iraq alone had forced 15 million people to flee their homes.

"There is a multiplication of new crises," he said. "The Iraq-Syria crisis gained the dimension of a mega one and at the same time the old crises have no solutions."

The number of Syrian refugees taking shelter in Turkey has further risen this year to more than 1.7 million since war broke out in Syria in 2011, according to the latest UN data,

Syria and Afghanistan are far from the only conflicts forcing people to flee, with at least 14 conflicts erupting or resuming worldwide in the last five years, more than half of them in Africa.

The report comes at a time when Europe is struggling with how to deal with a flood of new migrants crossing the Mediterranean to escape the fighting in Syria, Libya and elsewhere.

"UNHCR has received information of over 3,500 women, men and children reported dead or missing in the Mediterranean Sea during the year, clearly demonstrating how dangerous and unpredictable this situation has become," the report said.

The figures also showed that the Ukraine conflict led the number of refugees in Russia to rise to 231,800 by the year end, up from 3,400 only 12 months earlier.

Children make up more than half the world's refugees

Of the total 2014 figure, 19.5 million were refugees, 1.8 million were asylum seekers and 38.2 million had fled their homes but stayed in their country, the report said.

More than half of the world's refugees are children, up from 41 percent in 2009, while the total number of people who fled their homes has soared by 40 percent in just three years.

"We do not have the capacity, the resources for all victims of conflicts. We are no longer able to pick up the pieces," the commissioner said, adding that "impunity and unpredictability" in war seem to have become "the name of the game".

mh/jil (AFP, AP)

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