Numbers of refugees rose for a second year: UN

June 18th, 2008 - 12:56 am ICT by IANS  

Geneva, June 17 (DPA) The number of refugees rose worldwide for the second year running to reach 11.4 million following a five-year decline, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said Tuesday. The number of people displaced within their own country also rose to 26 million at the end of 2007.

The 2007 Global Trends Report said numbers were up on the previous year’s figures from 9.9 million refugees receiving assistance from UNHCR and from 24.4 million people internally displaced by conflict.

UNHCR was providing protection or help to 13.7 million of them, up from 12.8 million in 2006.

“After a five-year decline in the number of refugees between 2001 and 2005, we have now seen two years of increases, and that’s a concern,” said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres. He was speaking in London at an awareness raising event in Trafalgar Square ahead of World Refugee Day on June 20.

“We are now faced with a complex mix of global challenges that could threaten even more forced displacement in the future,” he said referring to other causes of displacement including bad governance, climate change, scarcity of resources and extreme price hikes that were generating instability in many places.

The report also lists other categories of concern to UNHCR including stateless people, asylum seekers, returned refugees and others. It lists 31.7 million people entitled to assistance from UNHCR, excluding 4.6 million Palestinian refugees helped by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA).

Almost half the refugees falling under UNHCR’s care were Afghans (3 million mainly in Pakistan and Iran) and Iraqis (2 million in Syria and Jordan). They were followed by Colombians (552,000) Sudanese (523,000) and Somalis (457,000).

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