June 20, 2006
Support World Refugee Day
The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, marked World Refugee Day by requesting more long-term support for the millions of refugees who have returned home. In the last four years, more than six million people have returned home from other countries bringing the world’s number of refugees to its lowest level in more than 25 years.
“The international community needs to devote much more attention to the transition between relief and development, to rebuilding societies which have been ripped apart by violence,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres.
The UN and international agencies have different events planned to mark this day. This year also marks the 55th anniversary of the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees, which was designed to lay the basis for the protection and then resettlement of people fleeing from persecution and tyranny.
This is a good time to be reminded that states have an obligation to protect and care for refugees once they have resettled and provide for their basic rights such as a freedom of religion and movement, the right to work, access to education and travel documents.
The BBC News reported that Mr. Guterres is spending the day with Liberian returnees coming back from Sierra Leone and accompany them on their journey home. Liberia is emerging from a protracted civil war that destroyed much of its infrastructure as its former president Charles Taylor is being brought in front of the ICC to face charges on crimes against humanity.
Although the number of refugees has dropped, the number of IDPs (people internally displaced in their own country) continued to increase. As a result, the UNHCR’s annual global report states that the number of uprooted people rose to nearly 21 million in 2005. This compares with 19.5 million in 2004.
The conflict in Darfur, accounts for two million internally displaced people. Colombia has the highest number with two million internally displaced. Iraq has 1.6 million refugees followed by Pakistan, with 1.1 million and Afghanistan with 912,000.
It is the vulnerability of these people, regardless of their status as refugee or IDP, which must motivate international agencies and governments to increase their response. We must work to give refugees and IDPs their human dignity and allow them to rebuild their future in their home countries.