An estimated 800,000 people became refugees last year in a string of major humanitarian crises that began in late 2010 with conflicts in Ivory Coast, followed by Libya, Somalia, and Sudan. A total of 4.3 million people were newly displaced in 2011, according to the UNHCR, with 800,000 fleeing their countries and becoming refugees.
"2011 saw suffering on an epic scale. For so many lives to have been thrown into turmoil over so short a space of time means enormous personal cost for all who were affected," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres in a statement on the organization's website. "We can be grateful only that the international system for protecting such people held firm for the most part and that borders stayed open. These are testing times."
The overall number of refugees, internally displaced citizens or people seeking asylum was 42.5 million - down from 43.7 million people in 2010 - but this number has remained above 42 million for the past five years, a trend that the UNHCR describes as "worrying."
The organization notes that a person who becomes a refugee is likely to remain one for several years, living in an unstable urban situation or stuck in a camp.
According to the UNHCR report, Germany is the industrialized country hosting the highest number of refugees - 571,700.
Four-fifths of the world's refugees flee to neighboring countries. With Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo topping the list of refugee producers, high populations of refugees can be seen in countries they border, such as Pakistan, Iran, Kenya, and Chad.
Author: Matt Zuvela
Editor: Nancy Isenson