World Refugee numbers rising, sort of
Posted by Ann Corcoran on June 17, 2008
June 20th is World Refugee Day, so you are probably seeing an up tick in the number of news articles about refugees this week. Here is one from the International Herald Tribune that says numbers of refugees are rising.
Oh, but you could look at it this way, the numbers are down since a high of almost 18 million during Bill Clinton’s Bosnian war. Holy cow! I suppose you could then say that the Clinton era Balkan war produced more refugees than the Iraq War—how can that be?
The number of refugees fleeing to other countries to escape conflict and persecution rose in 2007 for the second year as factors from climate change to overly scarce resources threatened to increase the flow, the United Nations refugee agency warned Tuesday.
A total of 11.4 million refugees were under the care of the agency, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, in 2007, including about 400,000 experiencing conflict in their home countries, the agency said. The total for 2006 was 9.9 million.
The total was modest compared with the 17.8 million refugees in 1992 at the time of the Balkan wars, but after a steady drop from 2001 to 2005 it represents a worrying trend, the relief agency said.
“We are now faced with a complex mix of global challenges that could threaten even more forced displacement in the future,” António Guterres, the high commissioner, said in a statement. “They range from multiple new conflict-related emergencies in world hot spots to bad governance, climate-induced environmental degradation that increases competition for scarce resources and extreme price hikes that have hit the poor the hardest and are generating instability in many places.”
The number of people displaced by conflict but remaining in their countries also rose in 2007, to 26 million, the agency said, citing statistics provided by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, a private organization based in Geneva.
Lest you start feeling good about the refugees coming to the West, the UN wants to dispel any notion you have about doing good. We western countries are bad, bad, bad because we don’t allow the millions in (to deplete our resources), and now the developing nations are getting stingy too.
The latest statistics contradicted a number of misconceptions about the impact and distribution of refugee patterns, officials said, starting with the notion that Western countries admit most fugitives from conflict.
Instead, 80 percent of refugees remain in developing countries in the immediate vicinity of their own country, the UN agency said.
Pakistan accepted more than 2 million refugees and Syria 1.5 million in 2007. The United States sheltered 281,000, the statistics showed. Only a tiny proportion find resettlement in third countries: about 49,900 people in 2007 and 821,000 in the decade ending in 2007.
Developing countries are increasingly unwilling to shoulder the refugee burden and are imposing stricter criteria for acceptance.
“It’s becoming a more and more inhospitable world for refugees,” said William Spindler, an agency spokesman.
Someone asked me recently why I thought things were changing and increasingly we see stories other than “puff pieces” about refugees and as I said previously, I think part of the reason is that the guilt trip works less and less frequently these days!
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