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World Refugee Day


Friday is World Refugee Day. The UN refugee agency says there are nearly 11 and a half million refugees around the world and 26 million internally displaced people.

William Spindler is a spokesman for the UNHCR. From Geneva, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua.

"We want to emphasize on this World Refugee Day the theme of protection, the need to protect refugees and other people who run away from persecution and conflict. This is, for us, our reason for being. And we would like people to be aware that refugees need this protection because in many cases (they) risk their lives or violations of human rights if they ard forced to go back home," he says.

Spindler outlines the worst trouble spots for the UNHCR. "The largest number of refugees is found in the Middle East. Just two countries, for instance, account for half of all refugees in the world today. And those are Iraq and Afghanistan," he says.

As for Africa, he says, "Africa has seen a small decrease in the number of refugees last year, a small decrease of about six percent, mainly due to successful voluntary repatriation in countries like Sudan, particularly to the south. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, where over 60,000 people returned last year. Liberia and Burundi. At the same time, continued conflict in other countries, and in some of those same countries where refugees were returning to, like DRC, which at the same time people were fleeing, others were returning. The same with Sudan."

In total, there were about 120,000 new refugees in Africa in 2007.

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