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UN Says More Than 50 Million Displaced By War, Crises Worldwide

Afghan refugee children gather at a special medical camp set up by the UNHCR with the coordination of the Pakistani Medical Dental Association to mark World Refugee Day in Islamabad on June 20.
The UN refugee agency says that the number of people who have had to flee from conflicts and crises has climbed above 50 million people for the first time since World War II.

In its annual trends report, the UNHCR said the total number of refugees and people displaced within their own countries reached 51.2 million by the end of 2013, an increase of 6 million from the previous year.

The report was released on June 20 to coincide with World Refugee Day.

The UN's high commissioner for refugees, Antonio Guterres, told a news briefing that the world was facing "a quantum leap, an enormous increase of forced displacement."

Syria's civil war alone has forced 9 million people to flee their homes, the UNHCR said. Since the conflict there began in March 2011, a total of 2.5 million people have fled Syria, with 6.5 million more displaced inside the country.

The agency said new crises, including in Ukraine and Iraq, were forcing more people to flee their homes.

The UNHCR said developing countries were hosting 86 percent of the world's refugees. With 1.6 million refugees, Pakistan is currently the biggest host country, followed by Iran and Lebanon.

INTERACTIVE MAP: The World's Displaced People

The UN agency said it was especially concerned about the rising number of children who are forced to flee.

It pointed to the record 25,300 unaccompanied children who sought refuge in foreign countries without their parents in 2013.

Guterres said the UN Security Council has been "paralyzed in many crucial cases around the world," unable to prevent or end conflicts.

In a statement to mark World Refugee Day, Amnesty International also criticized the UN Security Council for "spectacularly failing" to maintain international peace and security.

It said the Security Council’s "ineffective or delayed responses" to ongoing conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and other countries have allowed violence to spiral and "countless communities to be devastated."

Amnesty denounced Russia and China, two permanent Security Council members, for blocking "any meaningful action" on Syria, for their "pitiful" donations to the UN appeal for Syria, and for their poor contribution to the global refugee crisis.
With reporting by Reuters, dpa, AFP, and AP