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.