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UNHCR Calls For World To Do More To Protect Refugees

To mark World Refugee Day on June 20, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) urged the “international community to do more to protect and care for refugees around the world,” VOA News reports (Schlein, VOA News, 6/20).

Antonio Guterres, the UNHCR head, said, the “people cared for by the U.N. refugee agency and our partners are among the most vulnerable on Earth.” He added, “Refugees are not faceless statistics.” Guterres said aid donations for refuges and internally displaced people (IDP) should not slow down amid the global economic downturn (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 6/19). He said that without support, “we are forced daily to make heart-breaking decisions that directly affect the lives and well-being of the millions of uprooted families we are charged with protecting” (UPI, 6/20).

Ron Redmond, UNHCR spokesman, said the theme of this year’s World Refugee Day is “Real People, Real Needs” because refugees are “real people just like us who through no fault of their own have lost everything.” He added, “The sobering reality is that there are substantial gaps in our ability to provide essentials such as shelter, health, education, nutrition, sanitation and protection from violence and abuse.”

More than 80 percent of the world’s refugees and IDPs are in developing countries, which can least afford to care for them, according to Redmond (VOA News, 6/20). An abridged version of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s prepared remarks for World Refugee Day is available online (U.S. Department of State, 6/20).   

IDP Numbers Growing Faster Than Refugee Numbers

IRIN writes that by the end of 2008, there were about 16 million refugees, which are people who have crossed international borders, and approximately 26 million IDP – people who have been “uprooted to other areas within their own countries,” according to UNHCR’s 2009 Global Trends Report. The number of IDPs is “growing faster than the number of refugees because of the changing nature of conflict; the majority of conflicts today are within individual countries and less between nations,” according to UNHCR, IRIN writes.

Guterres said, “Being forced from your home by conflict or persecution is a tragedy whether you’ve crossed an international border or not.” He added that because of the situations in Pakistan, Somalia and Sri Lanka, the number of people forced to flee their homes is edging towards the 45 million mark, which is the highest number in at least a decade. The IRIN article includes additional information about the number of IDPs and refugee host countries around the world (IRIN, 6/21).

Xinhua reports that three aid agencies say although perception of refugees in some countries of the Eastern Africa region has improved, refugees in other parts of Eastern Africa still face hostility and neglect. The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and the Refugee Consortium of Kenya (RCK) say most refugees are denied fundamental human rights and experience rejection and discrimination (Ooko, Xinhua, 6/20).

Refugee Situations In Kenya, Southern Sudan Examined; Pakistan Marks World Refugee Day

IRIN examines the refugee situation in Dadaab, Kenya, where facilities to host people fleeing the “[e]ver-worsening security in Somalia” are “stretched to bursting point, raising fears of a major refuges crisis.” According to Refugees International, overcrowding in Dadaab “means that international standards for basic services are not being met. There is a shortfall of 36,000 latrines and 50 percent of the refugees have access to less than 13 litres of water per day” (IRIN, 6/19). The IRC and RCK say there are about 400,000 refugees in Kenya. Kellie Leeson, who manages the IRC’s programs in Kenya, said, “Throughout Kenya – in sprawling camps like Dadaab and Kakuma, as well as in urban centers like Nairobi – hundreds of thousands of refugees are struggling day-to-day without adequate basics such as food, water, healthcare and sanitation” (Xinhua, 6/20).

The Guardian reports on the situation in southern Sudan where “[t]wo million people have already returned from neighbouring regions, from the north, from Kenya, from Uganda, where they had fled during the war, and are arriving in towns and villages where there is no shelter, healthcare, food, sanitation, water or jobs” (McVeigh, Guardian, 6/21).

The International News reports on an event in Pakistan to mark World Refugee Day. “In places such as Pakistan, more than 2.4 million IDPs have been displaced. Although this is a huge number, each and every one of them has a human story to tell,” Society for Human Rights & Prisoners Aid Director Qaiser Siddiqui said (Khalid, International News, 6/21).

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