The U.N. refugee agency says fears of terrorism, tighter asylum restrictions and growing intolerance threaten the world's ability to deal with people displaced by conflict. The findings are contained in the annual report of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
The U.N. report says the latest estimate of 9.2 million refugees is the lowest number in 25 years, because of fewer armed conflicts and mass repatriations to countries such as Afghanistan and Sierra Leone.
But the report finds that migrants and asylum seekers face higher barriers than ever, given fears about terrorism and stricter border controls following the 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, told a London news conference that racism, xenophobia, violent nationalism, and religious fundamentalists are creating conditions of intolerance against migrants.
"One of the main problems we face in today's world is a growing intolerance, a growing intolerance happening everywhere," he said. "We are now witnessing the rebirth of irrationality. This is creating a difficult environment in which the foreigner, the one that is different, is sometimes hated, sometimes feared. To promote tolerance is a duty of us all."
And while overall refugee numbers are dropping, the U.N. report highlights a growing problem of internally displaced people, forced to move within a country because of armed conflict.
The situation is especially acute in two African nations - Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo - where the U.N. estimates that 7.5 million people have been driven from their homes.