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Refugees in the spotlight

Better housing conditions are a key priority for IDPs in camps
(Tariq Saeed/IRIN)

At the end of 2008, more than 42 million people around the world had been forced to flee their homes, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on 20 June to mark World Refugee Day.

Those that were uprooted to other areas within their own countries are known as internally displaced people (IDPs). They are classified as refugees only once they cross an international border.

According to UNHCR’s annual Global Trends report, released on 16 June, there were around 16 million refugees and 26 million IDPs in the world at the end of 2008.

UNHCR says that the number of IDPs is growing faster than the number of refugees because of the changing nature of conflict; the majority of conflicts today are within individual countries and less between nations.

While the UN agency’s mandate is to “lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide”, in recent years it has been increasingly tasked under the UN’s humanitarian reform process with assisting IDPs. Since 2005, the number of IDPs UNHCR provides services for has doubled.

"Being forced from your home by conflict or persecution is a tragedy whether you've crossed an international border or not," UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said. "Today, we are seeing a relentless series of internal conflicts that are generating millions of uprooted people.”

Guterres said this year's crises in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Somalia are pushing the number of people forced to flee their homes towards the 45 million mark - the highest number in at least a decade.

Countries with more than 1 million IDPs

More on refugees
 UNHCR Global Trends report
 World Refugee Day
 IRIN refugees/IDPs reports
 Burmese Refugees in Thailand
 Palestinian camps in Lebanon
 Kenya's IDPs
 Forced to flee
 Women dramatize the violence of camp life

Colombia: 3 million

Iraq: 2.6 million

Pakistan: 2.5 million

Sudan: 2 million

DRC: 1.5 million

Congo: 1.3 million

Uganda: 1.2 million

Major refugee-hosting countries in 2008

Pakistan: 1.8 million

Syria: 1.1 million

Iran: 980,000

Germany: 582,700

Jordan: 500,400

Chad: 330,500

Tanzania: 321,900

Kenya: 320,600

Source: UNHCR, with links to IRIN reports


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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