Geneva: Crises in Libya, Sudan, Somalia and elsewhere in the world forced more than 800,000 people to flee their countries in 2011, setting a new record for cross-border displacement since 2000, the UN refugee agency said on Monday.
In its `2011 Global Trends` report, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said the past year saw more than 4.3 million people being displaced worldwide and of them over 800,000 had to leave their countries in order to save their lives.
"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," head of UNHCR Antonio Guterres said in a statement.
"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," Guterres said.
According to the 47-page report, there were 15.42 million refugees last year -- 26.4 million internally displaced people and 895,000 others in the process of seeking asylum worldwide.
Moreover, about 12 million people were estimated to be stateless, which means they are not considered nationals of any country, noted the report.
With 2.7 million displaced nationals, Afghanistan remained the leading refugees producer in the world, followed by Iraq (1.4 million), Somalia (1.1 million), Sudan (500,000), and Democratic Republic of the Congo (491,000).
According to the report, about 80 per cent of the world`s refugees flee to their neighbouring countries. Pakistan was the leading country with 1.7 million refugees, followed by Iran (886,500), Kenya (566,500) and Chad (366,500).
Among developed countries, Germany remained the largest hosting country with 571,700 refugees. Meanwhile, South Africa was the largest recipient of individual asylum applications (107,000), a status it has held for the past four years.
The past year also saw around 532,000 refugees returning home voluntarily, more than double the previous year`s figure of 197,600, the report stated.
The report also noted that only 64 countries provided data on stateless people, meaning that UNHCR was able to capture numbers for only around a quarter of the estimated 12 million stateless people worldwide.
Despite the lack of a refugee specific law, India hosts more than 200,000 Tibetans and Sri Lankan refugees as well as 17,380 other nationals registered under UNHCR`s mandate. The country has also 3,710 asylum seekers, majority of whom are from Myanmar (2,728).