Refugee ‘time bomb’ ticking: Number highest since WWII

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The number of new refugees last year was 2.5 million, the highest since the Rwanda genocide.

The number of new refugees last year was 2.5 million, the highest since the Rwanda genocide.

BEIRUT/GENEVA: For the first time since the World War II era, the number of people forced from their homes worldwide has surged past 50 million, with Syrians hardest hit, the United Nations refugee agency said Friday.

“The world has shown a limited capacity to prevent conflicts and to find a timely solution for them,” said UN High Commissioner Antonio Gutteres.

“Today, we not only have an absence of a global governance system, but we have sort of an unclear sense of power in the world,” Gutteres told reporters in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, where the global report was launched Friday.

The UNHCR said there were 51.2 million forcibly displaced people at the end of 2013, a full six million higher than the previous year.

“The numbers we are announcing today do not represent good news. On the contrary, they represent a quantum leap in forced displacement around the world,” said UNHCR chief Antonio Gutteres.

“For the first time since the Second World War we had in 2013 more than 50 million people displaced by conflict or by persecution, either crossing borders or within the borders of their country,” he told reporters during a visit to Lebanon.

Lebanon and other countries neighboring Syria have borne the brunt of the refugee crisis sparked by that nation’s civil war.

The civil war in Syria is largely to blame for the global increase, the UNHCR said in its annual report, released on World Refugee Day.

Since the conflict erupted in March 2011, a total of 2.5 million people have fled Syria, with 6.5 million more displaced inside the country.

“The world has shown a very limited capacity to prevent conflicts and to find a timely solution for them,” said Guterres.

The spiraling numbers have huge implications for aid budgets, and place massive strains on nations on the frontlines of refugee crises, the UNHCR said.

“The number of new refugees last year was 2.5 million, the highest number since the Rwanda genocide,” of 1994, Guterres noted.

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