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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Evidence of War’s crime — Endless Refugees

News editing and commentary by Carolyn Bennett

Yesterday was “Refugee Day” and we are called to reflect that all the movie stars in the world cannot stop the uprooting and out flowing of human beings until the war makers are made to stop making wars, stop occupying other people’s lands, stop provoking conflict.

Compounding the crimes of war causing the flow of refugees (conditions of displacement, statelessness, homelessness, asylum seeking) is the propaganda put out by western officials and media: that their lands are being invaded by what they call “aliens,” that immigrants are taking their jobs, selling their people dope, and stealing their stuff. The fact is that the same countries who suffer western countries’ wars, invasions, occupation and provocation also are absorbing the refugees and IDPs caused by those wars, war makers, and occupiers.

“Fears about supposed floods of refugees in industrialized countries are vastly overblown or mistakenly conflated with issues of migration.” The fact is, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, said yesterday when releasing UNHCR’s 2010 Global Trends report, “the world’s poorest countries are left with having to pick up the burden.” At a time of rising anti-refugee sentiment in many industrialized countries, “developing countries are hosting a full four-fifths of the world’s refugees.”

War’s forcibly displaced, doubly burdened

“The world’s poorest countries are hosting huge refugee populations, both in absolute terms and in relation to the size of their economies. “Pakistan [being bombed by the United States], Iran [threatened] and Syria [ignored] have the largest refugee populations: respectively, 1.9 million, 1.1 million, and 1 million.”

Pakistan — 710 refugees for each U.S. dollar of its per capita GDP (Gross Domestic Product)

Democratic Republic of the Congo and Kenya, respectively — 475 and 247 refugees for each U.S. dollar of its per capita GDP 

German comparison, the industrialized country with the largest refugee population — 17 refugees for each dollar of per capita GDP.

Then and now

UNHCR’s launch year
2.1 million Europeans, uprooted by World War II were UNHCR’s caseload

43.7 million people are displaced worldwide (roughly equaling the entire population of Colombia or South Korea, or of Scandinavia and Sri Lanka combined)

Within the 43.7 million, 15.4 million refugees (10.55 million under UNHCR’s care and 4.82 million registered with the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees) are —

Conflict-displaced within country 27.5 million people, and within-country asylum seekers nearly 850,000 , nearly one fifth of them in South Africa alone.

15,500 asylum applications (most of them Somali or Afghan) are from unaccompanied or separated children.

Some refugees have been in exile for more than 30 years — Afghans, who first fled the Soviet invasion in 1979, accounted for a third of the world’s refugees in both 2001 and in 2010.

Iraqis, Somalis [under U.S. threat], Congolese (Democratic Republic of the Congo), Sudanese also were among the top 10 nationalities of refugees at both the start and end of the decade.

7.2 million people in 2010, and of the refugees under UNHCR’s mandate were stuck in exile for five years or longer— more than at any time since 2001. Only 197,600 people were able to return home, the lowest number since 1990.

Even with more than 2.9 million IDPs [internally displaced persons] returning home in countries including Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and Kyrgyzstan, 27.5 million internally displaced people represent the highest global count in a decade. Unofficial estimates put the number of stateless people close to 12 million.

No end to miserable consequences in face of war

UNHCR defines a protracted refugee situation as one in which a large number of people are stuck in exile for five years or longer.

The prolonged nature of several major international conflicts today causes the refugee experience for millions of people worldwide to become increasingly drawn-out.

Alternative to war

“One refugee without hope is too many. … The world is failing displaced people, leaving them to wait out the instability back home and put their lives on hold indefinitely.

“Developing countries,” Guterres said, “cannot continue to bear this burden alone. The industrialized world must address this imbalance. … We need accelerated peace initiatives in long-standing conflicts so that refugees can go home.”

Sources and notes
“World Refugee Day: UNHCR report finds 80 per cent of world’s refugees in developing countries,” © UNHCRGlobal Trends 2010 – Populations of concern, June 20, 2011, http://www.unhcr.org/4dfb66ef9.html

UNHCRs work extends to more than 120 countries and encompasses people forced to flee across borders as well as those in flight within their own countries. The 2010 report does not cover displacement seen during 2011 from Libya, Côte d'Ivoire and Syria and other more recent wars and conflicts.


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