UNHCR marks World Refugee Day 2012

On 20 June, UNHCR marks World Refugee Day around the world, remembering the struggle of millions of people fleeing violence and persecution across borders.

“It is important to remember that no one chooses to be a refugee. They are forced to flee from danger, fear and persecution and often lead lives of extreme hardship. States have an international responsibility to ensure refugees are not forced back to a country where their lives are in danger,” said UNHCR’s
Representative in Sri Lanka Michael Zwack.

The latest UNHCR figures in its recently released Global Trends 2011 report shows that worldwide 4.3 million people were newly displaced during 2011, with 800,000 fleeing from their countries becoming refugees – the highest number becoming refugees in the last decade.

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). There are some 136,600 Sri Lankan refugees in various countries in the world, mainly in India. Since the conflict in Sri Lanka ended in May 2009, UNHCR has helped over 4,900 Sri Lankan refugees voluntarily return home and restart their lives.

Sri Lanka is also among countries hosting refugees and asylum seekers with 88 refugees and 243 asylum seekers registered with UNHCR according to its mid-June figures. These numbers are small compared with other Asian countries such as Pakistan which hosts some 1.7 million refugees.

The Global Trends report shows in 2011 that of the 26.4 million internally displaced 15.5 million received UNHCR assistance and protection. One bright spot in the Global Trends report was that 3.2 million internally displaced people (IDPs) returned home in 2011 – the highest number in 15 years. That number
includes some 144,000 Sri Lankan IDPs who returned home during that period. A big part of UNHCR’s work in Sri Lanka has been supporting the government with the return of IDPs and refugees to their homes or finding other solutions.