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6 things you should know about the world's 50 million refugees

Published: Sunday, June 29 2014 5:40 a.m. MDT

Syrian families wait to register at the UNHCR center in the northern city of Tripoli, Lebanon, in this file photo dated Wednesday, March 6, 2013. The number of U.N.-registered refugees topped 1 million in March 2013 and half of them are known to be children, as Syrians flee from their war-ravaged country, and the United Nations’ refugee agency warn that Syria is heading towards a "full-scale disaster."

Bilal Hussein, Associated Press

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To mark World Refugee Day, the United Nations released a new report June 20 that reveals the number of refugees in the world has reached more than 50 million, the highest number since the post-World War II era.

Here's a few facts from the report and other sources about the world's displaced:

1. There are more than 50 million refugees in the world.

The U.N. High Commission for Refugees' (UNHCR) global trends report says that 51.2 million people have been "forced from their homes worldwide, including refugees, the internally displaced and asylum-seekers. That was the highest figure since the U.N. began collecting numbers in the early 1950s," the Associated Press reported.

The number of refugees "is more than the entire population of Spain, South Africa or South Korea, or more than double the population of Australia," CNN noted.

"Last year's increase in displaced people was the largest in at least two decades, driven mainly by the civil war in Syria, which has claimed an estimated 160,000 lives and forced 9 million people to flee their homes. Now Iraq is adding to that tide," AP reported.

Of the 51.2 million people displaced in 2013, 16.7 million were refugees outside their home countries, and "more than half of the refugees under UNHCR's care — 6.3 million — had been in exile for more than five years," Mashable reports.

2. Eighty-six percent of the world's refugees are being hosted by developing countries.

"The proportion of developed regions hosting the world's refugees has since diminished, while developing regions have continued to receive millions of new refugees — and during the past few years, in increasing numbers. At the end of 2013, developing regions hosted 10.1 million refugees, or 86 percent of the world's refugees (who have fled to a foreign country), the highest value for the past 22 years," the UNHCR report said.

The biggest populations of refugees were from Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria, and the countries with the highest population of refugees were Pakistan, Iran and Lebanon, according to the report.

"We are seeing here the immense costs of not ending wars, of failing to resolve or prevent conflict," U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said in a news briefing.

3. The daily lives of refugees are under the toughest of circumstances

Refugees in foreign countries, internally displaced people and asylum-seekers live in abandoned buildings, large tent communities, or with relatives under extreme conditions, the report says.

One son and his mother fled from northern Iraq after the radical al-Qaida breakaway group, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, burned down their neighboring village. They will move in with relatives, where 20 people share a single home, according to the AP report.

Asylum-seekers in Chad are living in a former meat-packing factory, where some 100 asylum-seekers from Chad, Mali and Somalia are housed. The building has only one toilet and two sources of running water. "There is no heating, no kitchen or bathing facilities, and only sporadic electricity. Former storage rooms and freezers are now used as bedrooms and the disused building is infested with rats," the UNHCR report says.

4. Half of the world's refugees are children, and families are being separated

"About 80 percent of the world's refugees are women and children, according to the U.N. and, in 2013, about half were children, the highest figure in a decade," National Geographic's Brian Clark Howard reported.

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