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World's refugees at all-time high levels

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
July 22nd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Worldwide refugees or the number of people who have been forcibly displaced by war, famine or drought has risen to its highest level for almost two decades, hitting 45.2 million, according to the United Nation's refugee agency. Annual figures released by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees last week showed that 1.1 million fled across international borders in 2012. An additional 6.5 million were displaced within their own homelands.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "This means one in each 4.1 seconds. So each time you blink, another person is forced to flee," Antonio Guterres, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees says.

The total figure of 45.2 million includes 28.8 million internally displaced people, 15.4 million border-crossing refugees coupled with 937,000 asylum seekers.

"War is the main reason for this very high number of refugees and people internally displaced. Fifty-five percent of them correspond to the well-known situations of Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Sudan, and Syria," Guterres said.

The ongoing conflict in Afghanistan has produced the most refugees, a position that it has held for 32 years. One refugee in four is Afghan.

Conflicts in Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic have also produced large numbers of displaced people and refugees.

Due to the raft of crises, he said, the total number of refugees and internally displaced had risen to a level unseen since 1994, a year marked by the Rwandan genocide and bloodshed in former Yugoslavia.

The year 2012 saw the rise of 2.1 million internally-displaced people with 526,000 refugees returning home, as well as the resettlement of 88,600 in rich nations, fresh crises drove the global total higher.

"New refugees, new internally displaced, unfortunately represent much more than those able to find an answer to their plight," Guterres says. "We witness a multiplication of new conflicts, and it seems that old conflicts never die," he said.

Guterres noted the number of people who had fled the growing violence in Syria had soared from 650,000 at the end of 2012 to around 1.6 million currently, surpassing last year's total from all conflicts.

The Syrian refugee numbers could hit 3.5 million by the end of this year, while there are also fears that the number currently displaced within the country, 4.25 million, will also climb. Syrian refugees have flooded into neighboring Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq, stretching those nations' ability to provide.

Guterres urged the international community to help shoulder the load, although he said UNHCR-brokered resettlement programs for Syrians in rich countries were not yet on the cards.

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