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More than 43 million worldwide forced from homes, U.N. says

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Inside a refugee camp for Syrians
  • The United Nations says record number of people have fled their homes
  • The U.N. releases its report to coincide with World Refugee Day
  • Afghans account for a third of the world's refugees, the report says
  • Report: Four-fifths of the world's refugees live in the world's poorest countries

(CNN) -- The number of people forced from their homes worldwide has risen to 43.7 million, the highest level in 15 years, according to a U.N. refugee agency report released Monday.

That's up from 43.3 million people a year earlier, said UNHCR's 2010 Global Trends report, which was released to coincide with World Refugee Day.

Of those displaced, the report classified 15.4 million people as refugees forced to flee their country and 27.5 million as displaced persons within their own country, forced to leave their home because of conflict or natural disaster, the report said.

The release of the annual report comes amid ireports of people fleeing conflict in Syria, Sudan and Libya. In recent days, thousands have begun fleeing to refugee camps set up along the Syria-Turkey border to accommodate those attempting to escape a Syrian military crackdown on anti-government demonstrators.

Ivory Coast refugees returning home
Angelina Jolie visits Syrian refugees

"Four-fifths of world refugees are in the developing world, and it is the developing world that needs international solidarity to cope with this challenge," Antonio Guterres, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said Monday.

A woman, who identified herself as Nour, said she fled to the camps because she believed she would die if she stayed in Syria.

"I come here. This circumstance is so difficult," she said. "I am pregnant. I cannot bear such things. "

The report said 10.5 million of the world's refugees are under the care of the United Nations, and another 4.82 million are registered with the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees.

"I think there are two dramatic misperceptions (regarding refugees)," Guterres said. "The first is the idea that all refugees come into the north, into Europe, which is not true ... and the second perception is the inability to distinguish what economic migration is -- people moving from one country to another because they want, and that's a very legitimate aspiration, a better life, and what refugees are -- those that are fleeing the conflict and persecution, those that have no alternative but to flee from their country."

The report also found that Afghans accounted for a third of the world's refugees, followed by Iraqis, Somalis, Congolese and Sudanese refugees.

Four-fifths of the world's refugees live in some of the world's poorest countries, with Pakistan, Iran and Syria hosting the most refugees, according to the report.

"The world is failing these people, leaving them to wait out the instability back home and put their lives on hold indefinitely," Guterres said in a written statement. "Developing countries cannot continue to bear this burden alone, and the industrialized world must address this imbalance."

Guterres called for increased settlement quotas and accelerated peace initiatives in long-standing conflicts so that refugees can go home.

CNN's Arwa Damon contributed to this report.