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unhcr 3GENEVA: December 18, 2015. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says 2015 is likely to exceed all previous records for forced displacement. Over 60 million people worldwide are now refugees or migrants because of conflict and persecution.

In the past 12 months the global refugee total has risen to 20.2 million – the first time since 1992 – while the number of internally displaced people has risen two million to an estimated 34 million.

With almost a million people having crossed the Mediterranean this year, UN high commissioner for Refugees António Guterres commented: "Forced displacement is now profoundly affecting our times. It touches the lives of millions of our fellow human beings – both those forced to flee and those who provide them with shelter and protection. Never has there been a greater need for tolerance, compassion and solidarity with people who have lost everything."

The UN says Syria's war remains the single biggest generator worldwide of both new refugees and continuing mass internal and external displacement. One result is increasing pressure on host countries and the danger of resentment and "politicization" of refugees, says the agency.

Despite this risk, the UN notes 2015 was also marked by "extraordinary" generosity: Turkey remains the world's largest host country with nearly two million refugees as of June 30; Lebanon is home to more refugees for the size of its population than any other country; and Ethiopia pays the most per refugee in relation to its GDP. Other countries will major refugee populations include Pakistan (1.5 million), Iran (980,000+), Jordan (664,000+) and Kenya (550,000+).

With 159,000 by mid-year, Germany topped the list of new asylum claims followed by the Russian Federation with 100,000 - due mainly to people fleeing the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

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