On June 20, the United Nations refugee agency released striking new figures on the growing worldwide refugee crisis and called on all leaders to keep borders open.
The number of forcibly displaced people worldwide was 43.7 million at the end of the 2010, the highest level in the last 15 years, according to the annual Global Trends report.
The report also shows an overwhelming imbalance in support for the refugee population, as 80 percent of refugees are hosted by the world’s poorest countries.
Presenting the report in Rome, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) António Guterres urged industrial nations to do more. “We need a new deal in burden and responsibility sharing — much stronger support from countries in the north to countries in the south to help all those who crossed borders.”
Guterres's message comes at a time when xenophobia is on the rise in industrialized nations, and as some European countries including Italy have done little to help host people fleeing turmoil across the Middle East and North Africa.
"I don't believe that we can consider that the present Libyan situation is conducive to any kind of return into Libya," Guterres said. "Imagine what would happen if the Tunisians and Egyptians would have returned the 1 million people.”
Italy's center-right government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi signed an agreement with Libyan rebels intended to curb the influx of migrants, stoking fears in the U.N. that those seeking asylum will lack adequate protection.
The U.N.'s 2010 Global Trends report on refugees shows that over a quarter of the world refugees are living in only three countries: Pakistan tops the list with 1.9 million refugees, followed by Iran and Syria, each hosting over 1 million. Germany, with 600,000 registered refugees, ranks fourth. The United States, with 212,000, takes 9th place.