July 14, 2012: The Arab Spring rebellions and several successful peacekeeping operations (like Somalia) led to a record number of refugees last year. The number of cross-border (as opposed to internal) refugees in 2011 hit 800,000, which was the highest annual total in eleven years. On a more positive note, a record number (3.2 million) of cross-border refugees returned home in 2011, thus the total number of refugees at the end of the year (42.5 million) went down nearly three percent compared to 2010 (43.7 million refugees).
The UN keeps track of refugees and is under pressure to do something about the post-World War II tendency to allow displaced people to remain refugees for decades, instead of persuading host countries to just absorb them. That is how refugees were handled for thousands of years and how Europe and China handled over ten million refugees after World War II. Then again, until quite recently it was also quite common for large numbers of unwanted refugees to simply be killed.
The more recent practice of maintaining refugees for decades has led to more terrorism and violence in general. The treatment of the Palestinian refugees is the most vivid example of this policy. The equal number of Jewish refugees expelled from Arab countries in the late 1950s was absorbed into Israel and Western nations and were never a problem. The Arab nations refused to absorb the Palestinians and insisted they remain refugees, which millions do until the present. This has caused or contributed to several civil wars and terror campaigns and the deaths of thousands of people.