CANBERRA, Australia, June 18 - A report released today by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees shows 2011 was a record year for forced displacement across borders around the world, with more people becoming refugees than at any time since 2000.
UNHCR’s 2011 Global Trends report details for the first time the extent of forced displacement from a number of recent humanitarian crises in countries such as Côte d’Ivoire, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and elsewhere. In all, 4.3 million people were newly displaced, with a full 800,000 of these fleeing their countries and becoming refugees.
Worldwide, 42.5 million people ended 2011 either as refugees (15.2 million), internally displaced (26.4 million), or in the process of seeking asylum (895,000). Despite the high number of new refugees, the overall figure was lower than the 2010 total of 43.7 million people, due mainly to the offsetting effect of large numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs) returning home: 3.2 million. Among refugees, and notwithstanding an increase in voluntary repatriation over 2010 levels, 2011 was the third lowest year for returns (532,000 returns) in a decade.
Overall, Afghanistan remains the biggest producer of refugees (2.7 million) followed by Iraq (1.4 million), Somalia (1.1 million), Sudan (500,000), and Democratic Republic of the Congo (491,000).
The largest refuge hosting countries were Pakistan (1.7 million), the Islamic Republic of Iran (886,500), and the Syrian Arab Republic (775,400), and once again a full 80 per cent of the world’s refugees were hosted in developing countries.
In Australia, the number of refugees and asylum-seekers remained relatively stable and small by global standards, with an estimated 23,434 refugees and 5,242 asylum-seekers hosted at the end of 2011. New Zealand is estimated to host some 1,934 refugees and 240 asylum-seekers at the end of 2011.
“This report shows again this year that Australia and New Zealand are fortunate to be far from the major conflict zones of the world," said Richard Towle, UNHCR Regional Representative.
“However, it also demonstrates that, given the size of the global displacement challenge, the protection provided to those relatively few refugees who do come to Australia and New Zealand is vital. This is true whether those refugees arrive spontaneously at the borders or under the resettlement programmes,” he said.
“UNHCR looks for leadership from both Australia and New Zealand by maintaining their domestic asylum systems and expanding their resettlement programmes wherever possible. In the region, we look forward to progress in the cooperative approaches being developed in South East Asia to increase protection and reduce the need for dangerous irregular movement by boat.”