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21 million people worldwide 'of concern' to UN refugee agency in year 2000

21 million people worldwide 'of concern' to UN refugee agency in year 2000

The United Nations refugee agency today released new statistics showing that the number of people of concern to the agency -- including refugees, asylum seekers and others -- stood at a approximately 21.1 million in the year 2000, or one out of every 284 persons worldwide.

The estimates by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) show that Pakistan saw the largest increase in refugee population over the past year, due to the influx of an additional 800,000 Afghans. Globally, Afghans constitute UNHCR's largest caseload, with an estimated 3.6 million people, or 30 per cent of the world's refugee population.

The second largest group, according to the statistics, is comprised of civilians from Burundi, 567,000 of whom are living in Tanzania. Iraqis make up the third largest refugee population, with 497,400 living in Iran.

On the whole, Asia leads with nearly 8.5 million people "of concern" to the agency, which counts not only refugees and asylum seekers but also internally displaced persons who UNHCR cares for under special arrangements. Europe has 5.6 million and Africa 5.3 million.

In releasing the statistics, the agency stressed that they "should be considered provisional and subject to change." UNHCR added, however, that it did not expect the final count, to be released in July, to "differ much" from today's figures.