U.N.: Number of refugees jumped in first half of 2013

Dec. 20, 2013 at 4:39 PM
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GENEVA, Switzerland, Dec. 20 (UPI) -- The Syrian civil war contributed to a sharp jump in the number of refugess worldwide in the first six months of 2013, U.N. officials said Friday.

In a report, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees called January through June "one of the worst periods for forced displacement in decades." The Mid-Year Trends 2013 report said there were at least 5.9 million displaced people in the first half of the year, compared to 7.2 million for all of 2012.

"It is hard to see such numbers and not ask why so many people are today becoming refugees or internally displaced," Antonio Guterres, the high commissioner, said. "Humanitarian organizations deliver life-saving assistance, but we can't prevent or stop wars -- that requires political effort and political will and this is where much more concerted international focus needs to be placed."

While Syria was the major source of new refugees, Afghanistan continued to have the largest group of displaced people, 2.6 million, the U.N. report said. Pakistan hosts the largest contingent of refugees, 1.6 million, mostly from Afghanistan.

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