Page last updated at 15:31 GMT, Tuesday, 16 June 2009 16:31 UK

Crises boost numbers of displaced

People in a camp for displaced people near Peshawar, Pakistan, 15 June 2009
Displacement in Pakistan has contributed to a new rise in numbers

A slight drop in the number of people uprooted around the world in 2008 has been more than offset by recent crises in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, the UN says.

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said global displacement stood at 42 million at the end of last year.

Of these, 16 million are refugees and asylum seekers and 26 million internally displaced people.

There are 5.7 million refugees "living in limbo", with little prospect of immediate solutions, UNHCR said.

This includes 29 separate groups of 25,000 or more refugees in 22 states who have been displaced for five or more years, the agency said in its annual report.

Asylum seekers up

The overall worldwide number of 42 million represented a fall of about 700,000 over the figure for 2007.

But officials said that because of conflicts in Sri Lanka and Pakistan in past months, that figure was now probably well in excess of 44 million.

Continuing violence in Somalia was also cited as contributing to a rise in the number of displaced people since the beginning of 2009.

"While some displacements may be short-lived, others can take years and even decades to resolve," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres.

"Right now, we continue to face several longer-term internal displacement situations in places like Colombia, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia," he said.

Voluntary repatriation, seen as the biggest durable solution for refugees, had dropped each year since 2004, and last year's level was the second lowest for 15 years, the report said.

The number of asylum seekers submitting individual claims increased for a second year, rising by 28% to 839,000.

The highest number of claims was made in South Africa, followed by the US, France and Sudan.

Graphic showing the world's uprooted people

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