“We are now faced with a complex mix of global challenges that could threaten even more forced displacement in the future,” said UN High Commissioner Antonio Guterres.
The high level of insecurity in Iraq is the first factor for the increase. The number of refugees under UNHCR's responsibility was 9.9 million at the end of 2006 whilst the global number of people affected by conflict-induced internal displacement (IDPs) was 24.4 million.
Afghans (around 3 million, mainly in Pakistan and Iran) and Iraqis (around 2 million, mainly in Syria and Jordan) accounted for nearly half of all refugees under UNHCR's care worldwide in 2007, followed by Colombians (552,000), Sudanese (523,000) and Somalis (457,000).
The top refugee-hosting countries in 2007 were Pakistan, Syria, Iran, Germany and Jordan.
Among the internally displaced, the report cites up to 3 million people in Colombia; 2.4 million in Iraq (was 1.8 million); 1.3 million in the Democratic Republic of Congo; 1.2 million in Uganda; and 1 million in Somalia.
Other increases or new displacement situations were also reported Sri Lanka and Yemen.
But some refugees or IDPs were able to go home. Under voluntary repatriation programmes some 731,000 refugees were repatriated in 2007, including to Afghanistan (374,000), southern Sudan (130,700), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (60,000), Iraq (45,400) and Liberia (44,400). In addition, an estimated 2.1 million internally displaced people went home during the year.
The UNCHR is also responsible for two other categories, stateless people and asylum seekers.
In all, 31.7 million people are registered with the UNHCR support, excluding 4.6 million Palestinian refugees helped by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).