Thursday, July 12, 2007

Rise in Refugees

Jim Lobe:

For the second year in a row, violence and persecution in Iraq fuelled a sharp rise in the number of people worldwide who were forced to flee their homelands, according to the latest edition of "World Refugee" released here Wednesday by the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI).

By the end of 2006, according to the report, nearly 14 million people were living as refugees, an increase of nearly two million people from 2005, and the highest global total since 2001.

Of the two million uprooted from their homelands in the course of the year, nearly half were Iraqis, according to the report, which assailed the United States, the main occupying power in Iraq, for granting refuge to a mere 202 Iraqis last year, although Washington has subsequently pledged to resettle 3,000 more Iraqis by the end of the current fiscal year, Sep. 30.

By contrast, neighbouring Syria permitted some 450,000 Iraqis to enter in 2006, bringing the total Iraqi population there to some 800,000; while Jordan took in some 250,000 last year, bringing the number of Iraqis there to some 700,000. Some 80,000 more Iraqis also entered Egypt.

...In addition to Iraq, major new sources of refugees included Somalia, where a military offensive by Ethiopia late last year spurred an exodus of tens of thousands of people to Yemen, Kenya, and Ethiopia; Sir Lanka, where an upsurge in fighting between the government and Tamil rebels was responsible for an outflow of some 26,000 people to India; and central Africa, where cross-border violence affecting the Central African Republic, Chad, and Sudan uprooted tens of thousands of people.

Of the world's 13.9 million refugees and asylum-seekers, less than 70,000 were permanently resettled during 2006, with the U.S. taking some 41,000, followed by Australia (12,133), Canada, (10,600) Sweden (1,555), and Norway (924), according to the report.