The United Nations High Commission for Refugees' annual "Global Trends" report released on Monday has found that a record 800,000 people were forced to flee across borders in 2011, the highest number since 2000, while over 4 million people were displaced last year.
According to the report, the number of people forcibly uprooted by conflict and persecution worldwide exceeded 42 million at the end of 2011. The total includes 16 million refugees and asylum seekers and 26 million internally displaced people uprooted within their own countries.
The UNHCR report shows several worrying trends: One is that a person who becomes a refugee is likely to remain as one for many years - often stuck in a camp or living precariously in an urban location. Of the over 10 million refugees under UNHCR's mandate, almost three quarters have been in exile for at least five years awaiting a solution.
Overall, the countries from which most refugees come are Afghanistan with 2.7 million, followed by Iraq with 1.4 million and Somalia with over 1 million. Around four-fifths of the world's refugees flee to their neighboring countries.
Pakistan, Iran, Germany, Kenya and Chad are among the countries receiving the largest numbers of refugees.
Over 3 million refugees and internally displaced people (IDP) were able to return home in 2011, the highest rate of returns in more than a decade.
The World Refugee Day raises awareness of the situation of refugees throughout the world. The theme for this year’s observance has been “Refugees have no choice. You do.” and focuses on the tough choices facing refugees, helping the public to empathize with, and understand, their dilemma.