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Refugee Numbers Fall To 26-Year Low

Refugee Numbers Fall To 26-Year Low, But That Of Internally Displaced Rises Un Report

New York, Jun 9 2006 10:00AM

While the number of refugees worldwide has reached a 26-year low, dropping by 1.1 million in 2005 to 8.4 million, the count of uprooted people of concern to the United Nations refugee agency has risen by 1.3 million to nearly 21 million due to an increase in those displaced within their own countries, according to a new report issued today.

“The bad news is that the international community still has a long way to go in resolving the plight of millions of internally displaced people in places like Darfur, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) António Guterres said.

“While we have helped hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people go home in Liberia, the Russian Federation, the Balkans and elsewhere, millions more are still living like refugees within their own borders. They need much more help than they currently get, and UNHCR intends to do its share.”

The Agency, whose primary task is to care for refugees fleeing across the borders of their homelands to third countries, has been taking an increasingly active role in caring for the world’s internally displaced persons (IDPs), now estimated at between 20 and 25 million, not covered by the 1951 Refugee Convention because they have not left their countries.

On the positive side, the report – 2005 Global Refugee Trends – shows that global refugee numbers (not including IDPs) are the lowest since 1980 with last year registering the smallest mass outflows into neighbouring states in 29 years. Moreover more than 6 million refugees have been able to go home since 2002.

“We're finding lasting solutions for millions of refugees through voluntary repatriation, through local integration in countries of first asylum, and through resettlement to third countries,” Mr. Guterres said.

The 6.6 million IDPs for whom UNHCR already works represent 32 per cent of the total population of concern to the agency (20.8 million), second only to refugees at 40 per cent. The remaining 28 per cent in the 2005 count include returned refugees and IDPs (1.6 million), asylum seekers (773,000), stateless people (2.4 million), and ‘various’ such as those unable to apply for asylum despite being in need of protection (960,000).

UNHCR’s figures do not include 4.3 million Palestinian refugees who fall under the responsibility of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

The vast majority of uprooted people remain in developing nations, with five nationalities accounting for nearly half of those of concern to UNHCR: Afghans (2.9 million), Colombians (2.5 million), Iraqis (1.8 million), Sudanese (1.6 million), and Somalis (839,000).
Last year was the fifth straight year in which the global refugee population declined, having fallen by 31 per cent since 2001, from 12.1 million to 8.4 million.

All five regions covered by UNHCR reported a decrease in refugees, with the largest (19 per cent) recorded in West Africa and in the so-called CASWANAME region (Central Asia, South-West Asia, North Africa, Middle East). Large repatriation operations have been underway in both regions, which still host about two-thirds of the world’s refugees.


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