The United Nations refugee agency said today that the number of people forced to flee their homes because of deadly violence and persecution stood at 42 million worldwide at the end 2008.
Although this represented a decrease of 700,000 over the previous year, new displacement in 2009 has already more than offset the decline, according to a news release issued by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
“In 2009, we have already seen substantial new displacements, namely in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Somalia,” said High Commissioner António Guterres.
Some 80 per cent of the 16 million refugees who have escaped to other countries and the vast majority of the 26 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) are in developing countries, noted the UNHCR “Global Trends” annual report.
“While some displacements may be short-lived, others can take years and even decades to resolve,” said Mr. Guterres. “We continue to face several longer-term internal displacement situations in places like Colombia, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of the Congo [DRC] and Somalia.”
The report highlighted some 5.7 million refugees “living in limbo,” with no immediate solutions in sight, including 29 separate groups of 25,000 or more refugees in 22 States exiled for five or more years.
In 2008, some 2 million refugees and IDPs were repatriated, which was the second lowest level of returnees for 15 years and a reflection of deteriorating security in Afghanistan and the Sudan, the report said.
“Today, we are seeing a relentless series of internal conflicts that are generating millions of uprooted people,” said Mr. Guterres, adding that UNHCR “is committed to working within the UN team and the broader humanitarian community to provide the internally displaced with the help they need, just as we do for refugees.”
The agency provides support for 25 million of the total number of uprooted people, including a record 14.4 million IDPs – up from 13.7 million in 2007 – and 10.5 million refugees. The other 4.7 million refugees are aided by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
Meanwhile, Hollywood star and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie has released a new video ahead of World Refugee Day (20 June), calling on the public to “remember them on this day.”
The 30-second public service announcement, co-produced by Ms. Jolie and UNHCR, includes images of refugees and other victims of conflict around the world.
The first night the video – which can be viewed at www.unhcr.org/pages/49c3646c46d.html – was uploaded to You Tube, it received more than 25,000 views.
Ms. Jolie is slated to travel to Washington D.C. this week with Mr. Guterres to mark World Refugee Day.