67 million displaced worldwide

Posted by admin on Jun 22nd, 2008

June 18, 2008, Nicholas Keung. Toronto Star

The number of refugees uprooted globally by conflict and persecution reached an unprecedented level in 2007, with the United Nations recording 11.4 million people seeking asylum abroad and 26 million others displaced within their homelands. The statistics from more than 150 countries identified a total of 67 million refugees and internally displaced people hit by human conflicts as well as natural disasters, says the latest report by the United Nations Refugee Agency.

“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,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said in London yesterday, ahead of Friday’s World Refugee Day.

“We are now faced with a complex mix of global challenges that could threaten even more forced displacement in the future,” he added. “They range from multiple new conflict-related emergencies to bad governance, climate-induced environmental degradation that increases competition for scarce resources and extreme price hikes that have hit the poor the hardest and are generating instability.”

With tightened border security in the West, 83 per cent of global refugees seeking protection managed to go only as far as their neighbouring countries in the same region – like the 3 million Zimbabweans that have poured into South Africa. The report points out that seven of the top 10 refugee hosts worldwide are developing countries themselves.

Roughly one-third of all refugees stayed in countries in Asia, with 80 per cent of them Afghans. The Middle East and North Africa regions were home to a quarter of all refugees, primarily from Iraq, while Africa and Europe respectively hosted 20 per cent and 14 per cent of the world’s refugees.

At a meagre 9 per cent, the Americas region had the smallest share of refugees, with the majority of them Colombians.

Afghanistan remained the leading refugee-producing country with 3.1 million of its nationals seeking protection in 72 countries. They were closely followed by Iraqis (2.3 million), Colombians (552,000), Sudanese (523,000) and Somalis (457,000).

Canada took in 900 Iraqi refugees in 2007 and vowed to accept 2,000 more through its resettlement program this year.

According to limited demographic statistics, some 44 per cent of the global refugees are children under the age of 18 with those 60 years or older accounting for 5 per cent of the population.

Among those displaced within their own countries, Colombia ranked first with 3 million people being forced to flee their homes in one region of the country to another for personal safety. The 2.4 million people in Iraq ranked second, followed by 1.3 million in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1.2 million in Uganda and 1 million in Somalia.

Meanwhile, 48,300 refugees were resettled in the United States, 11,200 in Canada, 9,600 in Australia, 1,800 in Sweden, 1,100 in Norway, and 740 in New Zealand.

Despite the continuing problems in their home countries, some 731,000 refugees did return voluntarily to places they once fled. They included 374,000 Afghanis, 130,700 Sudanese, 60,000 Congolese, 45,400 Iraqis and 44,400 Liberians.

The report estimates some 12 million people remained stateless worldwide, about 4.6 million of them Palestinians.

On Friday, the UNHCR, in collaboration with refugee aid groups in Toronto, will host a concert and special citizenship ceremony at Metro Hall Square from noon to 4 p.m. to celebrate refugees’ contributions to Canada.

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