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Last updated at 13:01 BST, Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Record refugee numbers


19 June 2012

The United Nations refugee agency says 2011 was a record year for forced displacement, with more people fleeing their homes than at any time since the year 2000. In its latest report on global trends in asylum, the agency says it is concerned by the increasingly large numbers of displaced people, and by the fact that many who flee remain stuck in camps for many years.


Imogen Foulkes

A group of Sudanese refugees

The UN says that more people than ever are fleeing their homes.


Click to hear the report


Ivory Coast, Libya, Somalia, Sudan – in 2011 4.3 million people were forced to flee their homes; the highest number, the UN refugee agency says, in over a decade. Of them 800,000 fled across borders, seeking protection in neighbouring countries. By the end of the year the total number of refugees and internally displaced worldwide stood at forty-two and a half million people – without their homes, possessions or livelihoods, often dependant on support from communities in developing countries, with themselves few resources.

The UN refugee agency says this latest report on global displacement shows worrying trends – forced displacement is affecting increased numbers of people, and among the displaced, more and more are having to wait years, even decades, to return home. Overall, Afghanistan accounts for the largest number of refugees, followed by Iraq, Somalia and Sudan. The UN refugee agency says it is grateful that, by and large, the international system of protection is being respected; countries are keeping their borders open to those in need.

Nevertheless, the UN knows that as the global economic crisis continues, help for refugees is unlikely to be a top political priority – and the refugee agency says testing times lie ahead.


Click to hear the vocabulary



escape from


a person who escapes their home town or country for their own safety


lines which separate countries


safety from harm

internally displaced

people who have fled their home but remain in their own country


personal belongings

global displacement

worldwide refugees





testing times

a difficult period

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