06/20/2008, 00.00
WORLD REFUGEE DAY
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A “silent tsunami” hitting weakest refugees

On World Refugee Day the Jesuit Refugees Service warns against the effects of the food crisis on already vulnerable population groups.

Rome (AsiaNews) – More than 100 million people could fall into poverty as a result of a “silent tsunami” triggered by the current food crisis. Refugees are among those most at risk and governments must “protect and encourage them to take measures to promote self-sufficiency,” the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS)* said.

For years the JRS has been involved with refugees at the international level. In a statement released today, World Refugee Day, it urges governments worldwide to increase humanitarian aid to populations in vulnerable situations and take measures to boost food production in developing countries.

Food prices have risen by an average of 83% since 2005, particularly affecting key staples such as wheat, rice, corn and milk. As a consequence of this ‘silent tsunami’, an additional 100 million people, including refugees and other displaced persons, risk being pushed into poverty,” the statement said.

“Increased food prices have led to reductions in their rations to unsustainable levels, resulting not only in hunger but also affecting their protection as well,” and when refugees are “forced to seek employment outside the camps, [they] put themselves at the risk of arrest and deportation.” Moreover, When teachers are forced to seek employment outside the camps, this also has a negative impact children's education.”

Hence “We urge the Thai government to consider alternative durable solutions for the refugees to become self-sufficient to alleviate this dramatic situation,” said JRS Thailand Director Aden Raj.

“Food aid is also urgently needed to prevent new displacement crises. Many individuals living in extreme poverty are being forced to flee their countries of origin as a result of political instability caused by food scarcity. Donor governments need to take steps to prevent the current food crisis from resulting in further displacement.  In addition, farmers in affected countries need to be given the financing and technical assistance necessary to help them to boost food production.”

* The JRS operates in more than 50 countries in six continents. It employs over 1,000 staff, including lay people, Jesuits and other religious to meet the education, health, social and other needs of 500,000 refugees and internally displacer people (IDPs) regardless of their race, ethnic origin, or religious beliefs.

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