UN report says 80 per cent of world’s refugees live in poor countries

Reflecting an “overwhelming imbalance”, the majority of the world’s forcibly displaced refugees have been taken in by poor, developing countries, not industrialized countries, according to the 2010 Global Trends report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) released on Monday. The report states that many of the poorest countries in the world have accommodated the largest numbers of refugees in absolute terms and also in proportion to their economies.

There were 43.7 million people displaced worldwide at the end of 2010, according to the report, more than half children. UNHCR works in over 120 countries and includes both refugees forced to flee a country as well as those forced out of areas in their own country. The global total is broken down into the following categories: 15.4 million refugees, 27.5 million internally displaced people, and another 840,000 people awaiting to be assigned to refugee status.

In addition, there are an estimated 12 million stateless people around the world; people who lack even the basic identity of a nationality. Since 2004, the reported numbers of stateless populations has steadily increased.
According to the report, Pakistan’s 1.9 million refugee population is the largest, followed by Iran with 1.1 million and Syria with 1 million. The neighboring nations of Afghanistan and Iraq accounted for the largest number of people fleeing.

The report states: “Pakistan also has the biggest economic impact with 710 refugees for each US dollar of its per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP), followed by Democratic Republic of the Congo and Kenya with 475 and 247 refugees respectively. By comparison, Germany, the industrialized country with the largest refugee population (594,000 people), has 17 refugees for each dollar of per capita GDP.”

The new report depicts a very different situation than when the UN refugee agency was founded in 1950 to deal with the 2.1 million Europeans displaced by World War Two. And it comes at a time when anti-refugee feelings are increasing in many industrialized countries.

“Fears about supposed floods of refugees in industrialized countries are being vastly overblown or mistakenly conflated with issues of migration. Meanwhile, it’s poorer countries that are left having to pick up the burden.”
—António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees

“Fears about supposed floods of refugees in industrialized countries are being vastly overblown or mistakenly conflated with issues of migration. Meanwhile, it’s poorer countries that are left having to pick up the burden”, said António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

UNHCR UK spokesman Mans Nyberg called for greater urgency in conflict resolution: “We are also concerned with the 7m people in protracted situations who are living in camps for more than 10 years, sometimes even 30 years. We are really appealing to the international community to put more efforts into conflict resolution so that these situations can be resolved.”

The report notes that in 2010 Japan resettled 18 families from Myanmar, becoming the first Asian country to accept refugees.The large number of people that fled Libya, Côte d’Ivoire and Syria in 2011, were not tallied in the report.

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