U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday marked World Refugee Day with a global call to remember the plight of nearly 60 million people forcibly displaced last year by conflict and persecution.
In a statement, Ban urged the global community to honor "our common humanity," while celebrating "tolerance and diversity."
He linked the unprecedented migrant turmoil to ongoing conflicts in Syria and crises in Iraq, Ukraine, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Nigeria and parts of Pakistan.
"This means that one in every 122 human beings today is either a refugee, internally displaced or seeking asylum," he said. U.N. data show that on average, 42,500 people became refugees each day of 2014 — a rate that has quadrupled in the past four years.
Ban also noted that the number of refugees able to return home last year was the lowest in more than three decades.
President Barack Obama, in a statement Friday, described the observance as "a solemn occasion for the United States to join our partners in the international community in recognizing the dignity, value and potential of every one of these lives."
"The struggles of some are captured in searing images — of people waiting at border crossings, housed in endless lines of tents, and crammed into rickety boats at sea — while those of others, crowded into the shadows of large cities, may go unobserved," Obama said.
Remarks by U.N. Special Envoy Angelina Jolie Pitt and U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres on World Refugee Day:
In southeast Turkey on Saturday, U.N. special envoy Angelina Jolie Pitt visited a refugee camp near the Syrian border, and later called on the international community to recognize what she called "frightening truths" about the upheaval.
She described the migrant crisis as "an explosion of human suffering and displacement," and said aid relief alone can no longer ease the crisis. "It must be managed by diplomacy and law," she said.
UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency, said in a new report that a record number of people — 59.5 million, up from 51.2 million the previous year — have been forced to flee their homes in search of safety.
"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," said U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres.
"For an age of unprecedented mass displacement, we need an unprecedented humanitarian response and a renewed global commitment to tolerance and protection for people fleeing conflict and persecution," he said.