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U.N.: 42 Million People Uprooted Worldwide

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U.N.: 42 Million People Uprooted Worldwide

Posted by Laura Heaton on June 16, 2009

In honor of World Refugee Day, which will be commemorated on Saturday, June 20, the U.N. refugee agency will today release its annual report with the updated figures of displaced people worldwide. Enough will attend this morning’s briefing with U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, who will present UNHCR’s Global Trends report. Check out Enough’s coverage of the briefing on Twitter at #WorldRefugeeDay.

The Global Trends report, compiled through the end of 2008, shows that there are 42 million uprooted people worldwide, including 16 million refugees and asylum seekers and 26 million internally displaced people (IDP).

While the total number reflects a drop of about 700,000 from 2007, UNHCR is quick to point out that conflict in the early part of 2009 has already offset this decline. U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres explained:

In 2009, we have already seen substantial new displacements, namely in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Somalia. While some displacements may be short-lived, others can take years and even decades to resolve. We continue to face several longer-term internal displacement situations in places like Colombia, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia. Each of these conflicts has also generated refugees who flee beyond their own borders.

The report indicates some other disturbing trends in regards to the countries in which Enough is engaged. Globally, UNHCR found that refugees and IDP returned home at a more infrequent rate than in past years, with refugee repatriation (604,000) falling 17 percent and IDP return (1.4 million) down 34 percent.  The deteriorating security situation in Sudan was one primary cause of this trend.

Though not traditionally part of UNHCR’s mandate, the refugee agency noted that it is becoming “increasingly involved” in addressing the plight of internally displaced people. As Guterres aptly stated:

Being forced from your home by conflict or persecution is a tragedy whether you’ve crossed an international border or not. 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.

Enough’s focus countries fell near the top of the list of the world’s largest IDP populations. Sudan’s internally displaced population topped 2 million in the Darfur region alone. Renewed violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia recently forced many people from their homes, increasing the total number of IDPs in those countries to 1.5 million and 1.3 million respectively.

Despite the internal challenges and underdevelopment the country of Chad faces, it played host to one of the largest refugee populations – 330,500; Kenya was not far behind with 320,600 refugees. Somalia (561,000), Sudan (419,000), and Congo (368,000) were among the major refugee-producing countries in the world.

In the lead-up to World Refugee Day on Saturday, countries around the world are hosting commemoration events to remember the tens of millions of people worldwide who currently live uprooted from their homes.

Check Enough’s special coverage of World Refugee for updates at Darfur Dream Team Sister Schools Program.