National Press Club

41 Million Refugees Uprooted by Conflict, Persecution, UN Report Says

June 16, 2009 | By Peter Hickman |

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The number of people forcibly uprooted by conflict and persecution worldwide was 42 million at the end of 2008, the UN high commissioner for refugees, said at a June 16 Newsmaker.

The commissioner, former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres, said the figure includes 16 million refugees and asylum seekers and 26 million "internally displaced" people uprooted in their countries, according to the report.

His report also said a sharp slowdown in repatriation and more prolonged conflicts resulted in "protracted displacement."

Guterres said that in 2009, "we have already seen substantial new displacements," namely in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Somalia. "While some displacements may be short-lived," he added, "others can take years and even decades to resolve. We continue to face several longer-term internal displacement situations in...Colombia, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia. Each of these conflicts has also generated refugees who flee beyond their own borders."

Being forced from your own home by conflict or persecution, Guterres said, "is a tragedy whether you've crossed an international border or not. Today, we are seeing a relentless series of internal conflicts that are generating millions of uprooted people. UNHCR is committed to working within the UN team and the broader humanitarian community to provide the internally displaced with the help they need, just as they do for refugees."

The commissioner also said developing countries are hosting 80 percent of all refugees, "underscoring the disproportionate burden carried by those least able to afford it, as well as the need for international support."