World Refugee Day has been internationally recognized on June 20 ever since it was established by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 2001. It serves as an opportunity to learn about and reflect upon the growing scale and complexity of the refugee crisis and to salute the courage, strength and resilience of the millions around the world forcibly displaced from their homes.
There are some reasons to be optimistic, such as growing global awareness and action in support of refugees and internationally displaced persons (IDPs). There are estimates of hundreds of thousand IDPs in the Middle East and over 600,000 IDPs and refugees in Uganda that have returned to their home villages, and the number of stateless persons was nearly cut in half over the last year. However, globally the crisis has grown in both numeric estimates and on the scale of human rights abuse. The United Nations estimates a total of 67 million forcibly displaced individuals around the world at the beginning of 2008, including half a million newly-displaced Iraqis, 600,000 new IDPs from Somalia, and 250,000 from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The largest internally displaced populations of Sudan and Colombia, 5.8 million and 4 million respectively, and the largest refugee population – 3.1 million displaced from Afghanistan – continued to grow. Meanwhile, these populations around the world face the daily struggle of continued violence, hunger, and lack of shelter.
AFJN supports World Refugee Day, extending its concern in particular for those over 2 million refugees and 12.7 million IDPs in Africa, the region in which the largest number of displacements took place last year, and encourages our membership to spread the word on these important issues. More information and opportunities to contribute and act can be found at the following websites:
- Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
- International Rescue Committee , hosting a number of events around the world in honor of World Refugee Day
- US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
- Publishers of the World Refugee Survey, 2008 just released
- Internal Displacement Monitoring Center of the Norwegian Refugee Council
- Amnesty International
- Forced Migration Online
- Protecting Refugees (Human Rights Watch)
- Refugees International
By Allison Burket