Syria overtook Afghanistan becoming the world’s biggest source of refugees last year, while the number of people forced from their homes by conflicts worldwide rose to a record 59.5 million, UNHCR said in its annual Global Trends Report.
The main acceleration has been since early 2011 when war erupted in Syria, propelling it into becoming the world’s single largest driver of displacement. In 2014, an average of 42,500 people became refugees, asylum seekers, or internally displaced every day.
“I believe things will get worse before they eventually start to get better,” U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said at a news conference in Istanbul.
There were 7.6 million displaced people in Syria by the end of last year and almost 4 million Syrian refugees, mainly living in the neighboring countries of Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.
Of the 19.5 million refugees living outside their home countries, 5.1 million are Palestinians. Syrians, Somalis and Afghans make up more than half the remaining 14.4 million refugees, UNHCR said.
Guterres said the responsibility to protect Syrian refugees should not be lie solely with Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, and called on the European Union and other parts of the world to open their borders to refugees.
“It is important… for people to be able to have the chance to move into those countries without having to force themselves in the hands of smugglers and traffickers, who exploit them in a miserable way,” he said.
“We are witnessing a paradigm change, an unchecked slide into an era in which the scale of global forced displacement as well as the response required is now clearly dwarfing anything seen before,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres. “It is terrifying that on the one hand there is more and more impunity for those starting conflicts, and on the other there is seeming utter inability of the international community to work together to stop wars and build and preserve peace.”
The report pointed out that 219,000 people crossed the Mediterranean to Europe, of whom a large part are Syrian refugees in Turkey – which became in 2014 the largest host country with a 1.59 million Syrian refugees.
The Syrian Coalition said earlier that “the Assad regime has been committing unspeakable crimes over the past four years humanity, and has manufactured and supported terrorist groups in Syria and the region.
It calls on world leaders to respond more effectively to the plight of Syrian refugees caused by the Assad regime, which has gone beyond killing civilians en masse over the past four years to manufacturing and sponsoring terrorist groups in an attempt to circumvent the demands of the revolution and portray it as a terrorist movement. (Source: Syrian Coalition + Agencies)