GENEVA, Switzerland, June 19 (UPI) -- Last year was a record for forced displacement across borders, as people fled fighting in northern Africa, a U.N. report released Tuesday said.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees' "Global Trends 2011" detailed for the first time the extent of forced displacement from several humanitarian crises that began in late 2010 in Ivory Coast, followed by other crises in Libya, Somalia, Sudan and elsewhere.
In all, 4.3 million people were displaced in 2011, with 800,000 of them fleeing their countries and becoming refugees, the highest number since 2000, the U.N. unit based in Geneva, Switzerland, said.
"2011 saw suffering on an epic scale. For so many lives to have been thrown into turmoil over so short a space of time means enormous personal cost for all who were affected," U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said. "We can be grateful only that the international system for protecting such people held firm for the most part and that borders stayed open. These are testing times."
Worldwide, 42.5 million people ended 2011 either as refugees (15.2 million), internally displaced (26.4 million) or seeking asylum (895,000), the report said.
Despite the high number of new refugees, the overall figure for 2011 was lower than the 2010's total of 43.7 million people, the report said. The U.N. agency said the drop was mainly because a large number of displaced people returned home.