The UN says 7.6 million people became refugees in 2012, with the total number now higher than at any time since 1994.
A report from the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees(UNHCR) says that Syria is "a major new factor" driving up refugee numbers.
The report say 55% of all refugees come from five countries: Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Sudan and Syria.
It also found that developing countries now hosted 81% of the world's refugees, 11% more than a decade ago.
"These truly are alarming numbers. They reflect individual suffering on a huge scale and they reflect the difficulties of the international community in preventing conflicts and promoting timely solutions for them," said UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres.