Published on ReliefWeb.int, Source UNHCR, June 16, 2009.
The number of people forcibly uprooted by conflict and persecution worldwide stood at 42 million at the end of 2008 amid a sharp slowdown in repatriation and more prolonged conflicts resulting in protracted displacement. The total includes 16 million refugees and asylum seekers and 26 million internally displaced people uprooted within their own countries, according to UNHCR’s annual “Global Trends” report
released today …
… According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), the global total of IDPs has stood at about 26 million for the past two years. No single agency has responsibility for all of them, but the UN has introduced a “cluster approach” in which individual organisations are assigned roles in displacement situations based on their expertise. For UNHCR, that means coordination of protection, camp management and shelter.
“Being forced from your home by conflict or persecution is a tragedy whether you’ve crossed an international border or not,” Guterres said. “Today, we are seeing a relentless series of internal conflicts that are generating millions of uprooted people. 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.”
Colombia has one of the world’s largest internally displaced populations, with estimates of some 3 million. Iraq had some 2.6 million internally displaced at the end of 2008 – with 1.4 million of them displaced in the past three years alone. There were more than 2 million IDPs in Sudan’s Darfur region. Renewed armed conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Somalia last year brought total displacement in each to 1.5 million and 1.3 million respectively. Kenya saw extensive new internal displacement early in the year, while armed conflict in Georgia forced another 135,000 people from their homes. Other increases in displacement in 2008 were in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Yemen.
The refugee population under UNHCR’s mandate last year dropped for the first time since 2006 because of voluntary repatriation and because of the downward revision in estimates of refugees and people in “refugee-like situations” from Iraq and Colombia. The 2008 refugee figure was 10.5 million, down from 11.4 million in 2007. But the number of asylum seekers making individual claims rose for a second year, to 839,000 – up 28 percent. South Africa (207,000) was the largest single recipient of individual claims, followed by the United States (49,600 – UNHCR estimate), France (35,400) and Sudan (35,100).
Developing countries hosted 80 percent of all refugees, underscoring the disproportionate burden carried by those least able to afford it as well as the need for international support. Major refugee-hosting countries in 2008 included Pakistan (1.8 million); Syria (1.1 million); Iran (980,000); Germany (582,700), Jordan (500,400); Chad (330,500); Tanzania (321,900); and Kenya (320,600). Major countries of origin included Afghanistan (2.8 million) and Iraq (1.9 million), which together account for 45 percent of all refugees under UNHCR’s responsibility. Other countries of origin included Somalia (561,000); Sudan (419,000); Colombia, including people in refugee-like situations (374,000), and D.R. Congo (368,000). (full text).