There were more than 50 million people displaced from their homes in 2013 — the most since World War II, Amnesty International said in a report published Monday.
The report suggested that world leaders have abandoned millions of refugees to "an unbearable existence" and left thousands more to die by failing to provide basic human protections.
The human rights watchdog is urging world leaders to radically overhaul refugee policies and create a comprehensive global strategy to deal with what it called a growing crisis.
Amnesty estimates that 4 million people have fled Syria and that more than half the nation’s entire population has been displaced, with 95 percent eking out a meager existence in neighboring countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. The organization says these countries are struggling to cope with the influx.
Salil Shetty, the group's secretary-general, said the refugee crisis is one of the defining challenges of the 21st century "but the response of the international community has been a shameful failure."
Shetty is urging states to share responsibility internationally.
An estimated 25,000 Bangladeshis and Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar boarded rickety smugglers' boats in the first three months of this year, twice as many as in the same period in 2014, according to the International Organization for Migration.
Myanmar does not recognize its 1.1 million Rohingya as citizens, rendering them effectively stateless. The country denies it discriminates against them.
After several weeks of what the United Nations described as “maritime pingpong,” Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand began to offer more than 4,000 of the migrants temporary shelter in late May.
“The initial refusal of the governments of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand to save people stranded at sea who were clearly in desperate, sometimes life-threatening conditions and the apparent push back operations they undertook were in flagrant violation of their international obligations,” the Amnesty report said.
Al Jazeera and wire services