World Refugee Day: UN calls on developed countries to share refugee burden

Updated On: Jun 21, 2011

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) urged industrialised countries to step up efforts in helping developing nations to deal with large refugee populations.

Speaking at World Refugee Day celebrations yesterday, High Commissioner António Guterres said that “a new deal in burden and responsibility sharing” was needed, with “much stronger support from countries in the north to countries in the south to help all those who crossed borders.”

The UNHCR’s 2010 Global Report shows that the number of forcibly displaced people in the world has approached 44 million, a 15-year high. The report does not include those displaced by this year’s conflicts in Libya or Syria, predicting further shifts in the data.

Report & Analysis: More than 43 million worldwide forced from homes, U.N. says [CNN, 20 June 2011]

80 per cent of these refugees are being hosted by developing countries, reflecting an imbalance in international support for the forcibly displaced. Pakistan, Iran and Syria have the largest refugee populations.

Guterres attributed much of this imbalance to “worrying misperceptions” on refugees, saying that fears about supposd floods of refugees in industrialised countries are being vastly overblown or mistakenly conflated with issues of migration. He called for increased settlement quotas and accelerated peace initiatives in long-standing conflicts to help send these refugees home.

Report & Analysis: UN debunks ‘worrying misperceptions’ on refugees [AFP, 20 June 2011]

To address this imbalance, Guterres called on individuals and states to recommit to the humanitarian values enshrined in the 1951 UN Refugee Convention. “We have to do more to keep borders open and guarantee access to fair asylum procedures everywhere,” he said. “Developing countries cannot continue to bear this burden alone.”

Report & Analysis: World Refugee Day: UNHCR chief appeals to industrialised world as annual celebrations get under way [UNHCR, 20 June 2011]

Manuel Jordao, the UNHCR Representative in Indonesia, also called for increased public awareness about the refugee population in Indonesia.

There are currently close to 3,000 refugees in Indonesia, mostly from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. In dealing with these refugees, resettlement in a third country is likely the only option available to the UNHCR.

“In the days and years ahead we hope that peace initiatives will bring long-standing conflicts to an end so that more refugees can go home,” said Jordao. “Unfortunately, repatriation is not always possible and UNHCR will, therefore, continue to seek for state support to provide protection and alternative solutions.”

Report & Analysis: Indonesia hosting close to 3,000 refugees: UNHCR [Jakarta Post, 21 June 2011]

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