TIME World

More Than 50 Million People Are Displaced, the Highest Number Ever Recorded

Pakistan Daily Life
An Afghan refugee girl holds her younger sister in an area where Pakistani health workers are searching for children that need vaccination against polio, on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan, Feb. 26, 2014. Muhammed Muheisen—AP

Refugees continue to pour out of Syria, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports

The global population of people who were forced to flee their homes has exceeded 50 million­­, according to the United Nations — levels not seen since comprehensive record-keeping began in 1989.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees released its annual Global Trends report Friday, aggregating data from governments and outside organizations. The report says 51.2 million people were forcibly displaced from their homes at the end of 2013. The U.N. formally considers 16.7 million of them to be refugees, while another 33.3 million are internally displaced persons who’ve fled their homes but not left their country of origin. Yet another 1.2 million of them are currently seeking asylum.

“We are seeing here the immense costs of not ending wars, of failing to resolve or prevent conflict,” U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said Friday, which is also World Refugee Day. “Peace is today dangerously in deficit.”

Many of today’s refugees have fled the ongoing conflict in Syria, which has produced 2.5 million refugees and another 6.5 million displaced persons who lack formal refugee status. Those who have fled Syria, along with Afghanistan and Somalia, account for over half the total number of displaced people.

The UNHCR’s plan to accommodate the increasing influx of Syrian refugees calls on countries to admit up to 30,000 refugees for resettlement by the end of 2014, its report says. So far, 21 countries have agreed to the UNHCR idea and pledged to admit more Syrians. The United States has promised to accept an open-ended number of people in need.

Despite the record number of displaced people, many countries continue to keep their doors open. Iran, Pakistan, and Lebanon hosted the largest number of refugees in 2013, according to the UN.

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