More than 4.3 million people joined the world’s growing refugee population last year, setting a new record for cross-border displacement since 2000, says a UN report.
Among the newly displaced were 800,000 refugees who were forced to flee their own countries and cross borders for safety and security, said the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ 2011 Global Trends report, to be released Monday.
The exodus of people — triple the number of 224,000 tallied the year before — began in late 2010 in the Ivory Coast, followed by other humanitarian crises in Libya, Somalia, Sudan and other places.
“2011 saw suffering on an epic scale,” Antonio Guterres, head of the UNHCR, said in a prepared statement. “For so many lives to have been thrown into turmoil over so short a space of time means enormous personal cost for all who were affected. . . These are testing times.”
In 2011, there were 15.42 million refugees, 26.4 million internally displaced people and 895,000 others in the process of seeking asylum worldwide, the 47-page report said. About 12 million people were estimated to be stateless, meaning they are not considered nationals of any country.
It has been the fifth consecutive year when the world’s displaced population exceeded 42 million.
One of the most worrying trends, the report said, is that a person who becomes a refugee is likely to remain one for many years, stuck in a camp or living a marginal life in exile.
Of the 10.4 million refugees under UNHCR mandate, almost three-quarters or 7.1 million have been awaiting a settlement for at least five years, with no foreseeable solution.
Afghanistan remains the leading country producing the most refugees in the world with 2.7 million displaced nationals, followed by Iraq (1.4 million), Somalia (1.1 million) and Democratic Republic of the Congo (491,000).
About 80 per cent of the world’s refugees were hosted in developing countries. The 48 least developed countries in the world were home to 2.3 million refugees.
Large refugee populations were seen in Pakistan (1.7 million people), Iran (886,500), Kenya (566,500) and Chad (366,500).
Among industrialized countries, Germany ranks first with 571,700 refugees, compared to 264,800 in the United States and 164,883 in Canada.
Some 17,700 asylum applications lodged globally were from unaccompanied children, mostly Afghan and Somali, up from 15,600 in 2010.
In 2011, 532,000 refugees returned home voluntarily, more than double the 197,600 from the year before.
New asylum claims lodged in 2011 in top 10 UNHCR offices
Syrian Arab Republic: 2,700
UNHCR 2011 Global Trends report
Source : http://www.thestar.com