Four out of five refugees end up in poor states according to a new United Nations report released today which demolishes myths "about supposed floods of refugees in industrialised countries."
Aside from the 15.4 million refugees - up 153,000 since 2009 - the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Global Trends report for 2010 also counted 27.5m internally displaced people and 850,000 asylum-seekers last year.
In total there are 43.7m forcibly displaced people worldwide.
Palestinians make up one-third of the world's refugee population - a total of almost 5m people - many of whom have lived in neighbouring countries all their lives.
Afghans make up the second-largest number of refugees at 3m followed by Iraqis at 1.6m and Somalis at 770,200.
Pakistan, Iran and Syria host the most refugees with 1.9m, 1.1m and 1m respectively.
Speaking in Rome UN high commissioner for refugees Antonio Guterres said: "Fears about supposed floods of refugees in industrialised countries are being vastly overblown or mistakenly conflated with issues of migration.
"Meanwhile, it's poorer countries that are left having to pick up the burden."
Mr Guterres pointed out that of the one million people who have fled the war in Libya so far this year, just 2 per cent have arrived in Europe.
"It's simply not true that refugees are moving massively" to rich states Mr Guterres said, adding that Western governments should negotiate a "new deal in responsibility sharing" with the developing world.
UN deputy high commissioner for refugees Alexander Aleinikoff warned that "the causes of displacement are not going away.
"So far this year we have seen conflict in north Africa, Ivory Coast, Syria, Sudan and other places around the world that have produced people fleeing dangerous situations.
"Sometimes it seems the loudest objections come from countries that don't shoulder the biggest burden."
Pakistan has 710 refugees for every dollar of its per capita gross domestic product.
By contrast, Germany counts just 17 refugees for each dollar of per capita GDP, UNHCR said.
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