The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is urging the
international community to do more to protect and care for refugees
around the world. The appeal comes as the agency commemorates World
Refugee Day, which focuses on the plight of tens of millions of
refugees and displaced people uprooted by conflict and persecution.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says people flee their
homes not because they want to, but because they have to. It reports
there were more than 42 million refugees and internally displaced
people worldwide by the end of 2008. And, those numbers are continuing
Victims of conflict
The UNHCR says so far, this year, millions of people
have been forced to flee their homes in conflict-ridden places such as
Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Somalia.
And, it says tens of
thousands of civilians continue to flee from daily atrocities
perpetrated by armed militia in Africa, Southeast Asia and elsewhere.
UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond says victims of conflict and persecution are among the most vulnerable people on Earth.
are not faceless statistics," he said. "They are real people just like
us who through no fault of their own have lost everything. Those who
work with refugees are struggling more than ever to meet even their
most basic needs."
"Thus the theme of this year's World Refugee
Day - 'Real People, Real Needs.' 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," he added.
Redmond says the global economic crisis, growing
xenophobia, climate change and the relentless outbreak of new conflicts
threaten to worsen the already huge displacement problem.
says more than 80 percent of the world's refugees and internally
displaced people are in developing countries. He says those countries
that can least afford to care for refugees are hosting the overwhelming
"The developed world needs to support those developing
countries that are hosting so many refugees," said the UNHCR spokesman.
"And, this puts the lie also to some of the outcry that you hear in
industrialized countries about them being flooded with refugees and
asylum seekers. They are not, for the most part, flooding into the
industrialized world. For the most part, they are staying in their own
regions and they want nothing more than a chance to go home."
Plight of refugees
UNHCR provides a snapshot of the dispiriting and difficult lives
refugees endure in camps around the world. For example, it notes
mortality rates for refugee children from the Central African Republic
and in some areas of Cameroon are seven times higher than the emergency
The U.N. refugee agency says that in Georgia, in
Eastern Europe, people who have been internally displaced for 15 years
continue to live in squalid, overcrowded collective centers that are
cold, lack water and functioning sewage systems.
It says that in
Thailand, in East Asia, more than 100,000 refugees and asylum seekers
from Burma have lived for years in crowded camps. And, this leads to
domestic violence and other abuses.