GENEVA, May 18 – Some 6.8 million people were forced to flee their homes in 2009, bringing the total number of displaced people around the world to 27.1 million by year-end, according to a report published Monday.
"This staggering total was the higest since the mid-1990s," said the report by the Norwegian Refugee Council\’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre.
In 2008, the number of newly displaced people reached 4.6 million, and 3.7 million in 2007.
Nine out of 10 displacements last year occurred in just eight countries — Pakistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Somalia, the Philippines, Colombia, Sri Lanka and Ethiopia.
"New displacement in 2009 was predominantly caused by conflicts which had already run for years or decades. Many people had been repeatedly displaced in successive cycles of conflict," the report said.
The Pakistani army\’s offensive against the Taliban forced some three million people to flee within the space of weeks.
"In eastern DR Congo, the killing and rape of internally displaced people and other civilians continued at a horrifying rate in 2009," added the report, pointing to one million newly displaced across the country last year.
But while the number of newly displaced was higher than in previous years, the number of those who were able to return within the same year was also higher.
In 2009, five million of newly displaced people were able to return home after weeks or months of displacement, while in 2008, only 2.6 million were able to return in the same year.