Refugee numbers, highest in decade

A child at a refugee camp in Pakistan. In 2011, an estimated 4.3 million people were newly displaced due to conflict or persecution, according to the Global Trends 2011 report by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Photo by: S. Rich / UNHCR

A total of 532,000 refugees volunteered to go home in 2011. But this number pales in comparison with the 15.2 million people who remain in international borders.

Afghanistan is the world’s top “producer” of refugees at 2.7 million, according to the latest Global Trends 2011 report by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, which was released ahead of World Refugee Day (June 20). Next are Iraq (1.4 million), Somalia (1.1 million), Sudan (500,000) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (491,000).

The numbers were driven by a string of conflicts last year, which, according to the report, forced more than 800,000 people out of their homes and into neighboring countries.

What is the world doing to help them?

The UNHCR, as part of its mandate, has begun airlifting emergency aid to South Sudan. The supplies, which include soap, blankets and mosquito nets, are for Sudanese seeking refuge in the country.

New Zealand foreign affairs minister Murray McCully, meanwhile, has announced 500,000 New Zealand dollars ($397,000) for Syrian and Palestinian refugees in Jordan, reports. The money will be coursed through UNHCR and the U.N. Work and Relief Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East.

The United States anticipates it will be admitting the same number of refugees this year as it did in 2011: 56,000. Kelly Gauger, deputy director of the refugee admissions office of the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, said the United States admits refuges based “only” on need. Even so, a person who wishes to seek refuge in the Western nation has to go through a series of steps. While the process normally takes a year, dire circumstances can shorten it to six to eight weeks.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.

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