The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) released a report on Thursday detailing that approximately 59.5 million people around the world have been either externally or internally displaced due to strife. According to the refugee agency, globally today 1 in 122 people is either a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking asylum. About half of that total number are children. Since data has been collected, 2014 saw the largest increase in refugee numbers ever, up over 8 million from the figure of 51.2 million in 2013.

António Guterres, the head of the UNHCR stated, "We are witnessing a paradigm change, an unchecked slide into an era in which the scale of global forced displacement as well as the response required is now clearly dwarfing anything seen before." The six countries with the highest number of displaced people in order are Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan.

Syria alone accounts for nearly 4 million refugees due to the Syria Civil War that has raged since 2011. Less developed countries and regions account for 86% of worldwide refugees.

There has been significant controversy in the European Union concerning the increasing influx of refugees and asylum seekers via the Mediterranean Sea. Displaced people have been attempting to cross the Mediterranean in record numbers and there have been numerous tragic accidents where ships have capsized, resulting in the deaths of thousands in recent years. Recent public pressure has caused the EU to increase search and rescue operations in the area to hopefully reduce the number of casualties. Amnesty International issued a report denouncing the efforts of both governments and smugglers as focusing on selfish interests rather than human compassion.

The UNHCR also reported that in 2014, the lowest number of refugees in over 30 years returned to their countries of origin at less than 127,000. Ongoing crises such as those in Afghanistan and Somalia show little sign of abating, while more recent conflicts such as those in Syria, Yemen, and Burundi have added to the worldwide problem. Over the past five years, the UN has detailed at least 15 new conflicts, 8 of which are in Africa.