According to UNHCR, the declining number of "refugees" in the world is at its lowest since 1980. But the number of internally displaced people and stateless people in need of help is on the rise: in all, there are 19.2 million
Genova (AsiaNews) For five years now, 20 June has been marked as World Refugee Day. The decision was taken in 2000 by the UN General Assembly which, through a resolution, dedicated to all the world's refugees that which thus far, had been commemorated as Africa Refugee Day.
According to the 1951 Geneva Convention, a refugee is one who suffers personal persecution for his political or religious beliefs, race, nationality or membership of a particular social group. Countries adhering to the Geneva Convention are therefore bound to grant asylum to people who find themselves such predicaments.
According to the report of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in 2004, the number of refugees in the world dropped by 4% from 9.6 to 9.2 million, the lowest figure in the last 25 years. At the same time, the UN agency noted the consistently high number of internally displaced and stateless people.
On occasion of World Refugee Day, today 20 June, UNHCR said that last year, people with refugee status, asylum seekers, returnees, stateless people and "internal refugees" numbered 19.2 million, an increase over 17 million people in 2003.
The largest group of refugees still hails from Afghanistan at 2.1 million people.
The decline in the overall number of refugees for the fourth consecutive year is largely due to an unprecedented level of voluntary repatriation. Altogether, since the end of 2001, more than five million refugees were able to return to their countries of origin: 3.5 million of these in Afghanistan.
The total number of refugees at the end of 2004 in Asia and Pacific countries stood at 836,000 people; in the zone denominated CASAWANAME (central Asia, south-west Asia, northern Africa and the Mid-East), there are 2,375,000. Four out of the world's top ten refugee-producing countries are Asian: Afghanistan, which takes first place with 2,084,900 (-2.4% compared to 2003); Palestine, in sixth place with 350,600 (unchanged); Vietnam - seventh place 349,800 (-3.7%); and in ninth place Iraq with 311,800 refugees (-15.4%).
Asian countries welcoming the largest number of refugees are Iran (first at global level), which hosts 1,046,000 primarily Afghan refugees, and Pakistan with 961,000, these too mostly Afghan. China comes in sixth place with 299,400 refugees.