Saturday, June 26, 2004

So find good news where you can

Amid the sorrow and loss, there is a ray of light. Small, yes, but there.

As reported by the Toronto Globe & Mail last week,
[t]he number of refugees worldwide has fallen to 9.7 million, the lowest level in at least a decade because of increased international efforts to help uprooted people, the UN refugee agency said Thursday. ...

A key reason for the drop was the continued return of refugees to Afghanistan. More than half of the 1.1 million refugees repatriated last year returned to Afghanistan; large numbers of refugees also returned home to Angola, Burundi and Iraq.

"The phenomenal return of Afghans to their homeland over the past few years underscores the benefits of sustained international attention and support for the work of UNHCR and its partners," [Ruud] Lubbers[, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees] said. "The impact is felt as far away as Europe, where the numbers of Afghan asylum seekers have plunged."
The total number of refugees, defined as those who have fled across a national border, was down by nearly one million from the year before, a drop of almost 9%. (UNHCR also tries to help others who have been forced from their homes but are not "officially" refugees; the two groups together make up "the population of concern.")
Not all the news is good, however. Six countries - Sudan, Liberia, Central African Republic, Congo, Ivory Coast and Somalia - each produced more than 15,000 refugees in 2003. Some 807,000 claims for asylum or refugee status were submitted in 141 different countries.

Around 112,000 refugees fled from Sudan alone.
And that will likely get worse as the situation in Darfur worsens. Yet even there, with talk of disarming the militias, it's not completely wrapped in gloom. Yes, for now it's still just talk - but slowly the world is coming to pay attention. And until now there wasn't even talk.

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