06/19/2008, 00.00
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Rising number of refugees in the world worrisome

The latest figures from UNCHR indicate that refugees number 11.4 million, almost half of them Afghans and Iraqis. Internally displaced people are around 26 million with Colombians and Iraqis at the top. About 731,000 people were able to go home.
London (AsiaNews) – At the end of 2007 there were 11.4 million refugees and 26 million internally displaced people forced to flee their home by conflict or persecution, this according to figures released by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). These numbers indicate that after a five-year decline between 2001 and 2005, the number of refugees has risen for two years in a row, about half of them Iraqis and Afghans.

“We are now faced with a complex mix of global challenges that could threaten even more forced displacement in the future,” said UN High Commissioner Antonio Guterres.

The high level of insecurity in Iraq is the first factor for the increase. The number of refugees under UNHCR's responsibility was 9.9 million at the end of 2006 whilst the global number of people affected by conflict-induced internal displacement (IDPs) was 24.4 million.

Afghans (around 3 million, mainly in Pakistan and Iran) and Iraqis (around 2 million, mainly in Syria and Jordan) accounted for nearly half of all refugees under UNHCR's care worldwide in 2007, followed by Colombians (552,000), Sudanese (523,000) and Somalis (457,000).

The top refugee-hosting countries in 2007 were Pakistan, Syria, Iran, Germany and Jordan.

Among the internally displaced, the report cites up to 3 million people in Colombia; 2.4 million in Iraq (was 1.8 million); 1.3 million in the Democratic Republic of Congo; 1.2 million in Uganda; and 1 million in Somalia.

Other increases or new displacement situations were also reported Sri Lanka and Yemen.

But some refugees or IDPs were able to go home. Under voluntary repatriation programmes some 731,000 refugees were repatriated in 2007, including to Afghanistan (374,000), southern Sudan (130,700), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (60,000), Iraq (45,400) and Liberia (44,400). In addition, an estimated 2.1 million internally displaced people went home during the year.

The UNCHR is also responsible for two other categories, stateless people and asylum seekers.

In all, 31.7 million people are registered with the UNHCR support, excluding 4.6 million Palestinian refugees helped by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

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