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NZ Urged To Protect Refugees After New UN Report

New Zealanders Urged To Protect Refugees In Light Of New U.N. Global Report

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    A report by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has found that the number of refugees worldwide soared by 1.5 million to 11.4 million at the end of 2007. The number of people displaced internally by conflict or persecution rose by 1.6 million to 26 million.

    Of these, an unprecedented 25.1 million refugees and internally displaced people are now under the care of the UN refugee agency, according to the new UNHCR report Global Trends 2007 just released.

    UNHCR Regional Representative Richard Towle said the figures highlighted the need for the world to rally together to protect refugees.

    “Protection is about ensuring those people who flee their homes because of persecution and conflict are given a place of safety, where their rights are respected, and they receive shelter and life-saving assistance,” said Mr Towle.

    “With the global refugee figures climbing, we need to ensure that in this region (Australia and New Zealand) the doors continue to remain open to those who have no other choice.”

    The UNHCR statistics show much of the increase in refugee figures was the result of the volatile situation in Iraq. Afghans and Iraqis accounted for nearly half of all refugees under UNHCR’s care last year.

    While asylum applications worldwide have increased by 5 per cent, most refugees remain in their regions of origin - not the industrialised world.

    “World Refugee Day is an occasion to find out more about refugees worldwide and to show your support,” Mr Towle said.

    To mark World Refugee Day (Friday June 20) events around the globe will emphasise the importance of protecting refugees.

    In Wellington, UNHCR is supporting a radio project run by the Voice Arts Trust to help tell the refugee stories behind the statistics. Thirteen young refugees are producing their own radio programme exploring the global World Refugee Day theme of protection and sharing their own stories of resettlement. The programme, to feature poems, drama, song, interviews and storytelling, will be broadcast on Access Radio on June 20. ( www.accessradio.org.nz)

    There are also soccer games, cross-cultural celebrations, performances and tree-planting events taking place across to New Zealand to mark World Refugee Day.

    “The responsibility for refugee protection is global and we can all play a part: the UN, governments, civil society and individuals,” said Mr Towle.

    “Whether it’s by welcoming refugees to your community, supporting policies that ensure refugees can find safety, or helping agencies like UNHCR, everyone can help protect refugees.”

    For more information about World Refugee Day, events in New Zealand, and a copy of the full Global Trends Report 2007, visit www.unhcr.org.nz


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