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'2014 worst year for refugees in decades'

Melissa Fleming says over 30,000 people are forced to flee their homes due to conflict and war everyday.

Melissa Fleming, spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees at the 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in Rome on 13 December 2014. Picture: AFP.

ROME - The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says millions of women and children are suffering in war torn areas after being forced to flee their homes.

The global aid agency has given details about the refugee crisis to delegates gathered in Rome at the 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates.

The organisation has won the Nobel Peace Prize twice for global refugee aid.

Over 30,000 people are forced to flee their homes because of conflict and war everyday.

The commissioner's spokesperson, Melissa Fleming, says this has been the worst year for refugees in decades.

"Not only have they just had to flee from their homes and witnessed death and destruction of their family members, but their journey can be as dangerous as where they fled from."

Fleming says the trauma experienced in especially Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo is immense.

She says many women start taking the contraceptive pill before fleeing their homes as they know there is a good chance of getting raped on their journey.

Cape Town Mayor Patricia De Lille is co-hosting the summit.

The summit was supposed to be held in the Mother City but the Dalai Lama wasn't given a visa, resulting in the withdrawal of a number of delegates.

De Lille cited the primary reason as government's failure to grant the spiritual leader a visa.

The South African government says the Dalai Lama withdrew his application but China later thanked the government for blocking him.

Several laureates then cancelled, resulting in the last minute move to Italy.

The City of Cape Town has said it lost an economic opportunity of about R60 million with the relocation of the summit.

Previous delays in dealing with the Dalai Lama's visa requests by the African National Congress-led government have angered South Africans who see it as a betrayal of the country's commitment to human rights since apartheid ended 20 years ago.

China brands the Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in India in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule of Tibet, a separatist. The Dalai Lama says he is seeking more autonomy for his Himalayan homeland.

A South African court ruled two years ago that officials had "unreasonably delayed" a decision on granting the Dalai Lama a visa in 2011,

Because of the delay, the Dalai Lama was unable to attend Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu's 80th birthday in Cape Town in October 2011. The previous visa denial, in 2009, was also for a peace conference.