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With repatriation soaring in Africa, UN refugee agency appeals for $1.1 billion

With repatriation soaring in Africa, UN refugee agency appeals for $1.1 billion

With an unprecedented number of repatriation operations underway in Africa, the United Nations refugee agency today launched a $1.1 billion appeal, nearly $100 million more than in 2004, to fund its work for next year to care for some 17 million refugees and other people worldwide.

The Globe Appeal 2005, presented to donor countries at a pledging conference in Geneva, includes $981.6 million for the agency's regular budget compared to $954.9 million in 2004, and $122.5 million for supplementary programmes for the planned return and reintegration of Burundian and Sudanese refugees in the south. This latter amoung is more than double the $57 million sought for supplementary programs this year.

“The challenge of finding more solutions for more people, and of curtailing irregular flows and human trafficking, remain our priority in the coming year,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Ruud Lubbers said.

The total number of people targeted this year is in fact more than 3 million less than last December, when UNHCR mentioned 20.5 million for its 2004 appeal. This year’s figure includes 9.7 million refugees, 1 million asylum seekers, over 1 million returnees and 5.3 million others in refugee-like situations, including internally displaced people (IDPs).

“While we are providing assistance to over 1 million returnees, for millions of others hope is still remote,” Mr. Lubbers noted.

He said the regular budget represented no real growth since it took into account anticipated inflation and currency fluctuations. The amount is also provisional since full requirements for Chad/Darfur, Iraq and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will be finalized in early 2005.

In all, 42 per cent of the total budget is allocated to programmes in Africa, including $59 million for Sudanese refugees in Chad. Other sizeable operations are mostly linked to repatriation and reintegration – for example in South West Asia, where $107 million have been budgeted for Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan.

Over the past three years, UNHCR has been receiving a greater commitment of funds during the annual pledging conferences, which has helped reduce some of the financial uncertainties that dogged operations in the early months of the annual cycle during the late 1990s. It received pledges for $267 million towards its 2002 budget, $317 the following year, and last year $359 million towards the 2004 budget.

But, UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told a news briefing in Geneva, “While it is heartening that governments are geared to commit more at an earlier stage, it should nevertheless be noted that we still have a shortfall of some $10 million for this year's projected income targets.”