Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

World Refugee Day

Today, June 20, is World Refugee Day. The United Nation (UN) reports that many countries and regions have been holding their own Refugee Days, in some cases, lasting for weeks. The African Refugee Day, one of the most prominent and widespread, is celebrated on June 20. As an expression if solidarity with Africa, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution relating to refugees in Africa and was decided then, that “from 2001, June 20 would be celebrated as World Refugee Day.”

Jeff Koinange, CNN Senior Africa Correspondent, who has spent years covering events from Africa, gave his reflections on working with refugees in Africa. Mr. Koinange shared the story of a Liberian refugee named Marcus Sawyer who was “once a wealthy attorney in Monrovia,” and “owned holiday homes in South Africa, an apartment in the south of France, and real estate in Dubai.” Mr. Koinange described the day when Mr. Sawyer lost his wealth: “One day rebels invaded the capital and Sawyer, his family and thousands of Liberians were forced to flee and seek refuge in the city’s soccer stadium. Suddenly it was home to more than 50,000 internally displaced people and would be Sawyer’s new residence for the next six months.” Mr. Koinange said that the last time he saw Mr. Sawyer, “he had become a shell of his old self—dejected, depressed and despondent.”

Christiane Amanpour, CNN Chief International Correspondent and former refugee, has devoted her life to covering war, crisis, poverty, famine and, as she states, “their inevitable byproduct: refugees.” Amanpour discussed the ongoing crisis in Darfur, describing it as “appalling and getting worse.” The Janjaweed, a Sudanese government-backed Arab militia, “has kept a reign of terror in the Western region of Darfur.” According to Amanpour, “nearly 2 million people are crowded into camps where health and food crises are rampant.” Amanpour, however, is encouraged by some good news: “The number of refugee’s around the world has dropped to a 36-year low. But the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is caring for more people—21 million, mostly because of the worlds internally placed refugees, such as in Sudan.”

According to the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, Egypt is a host to refugees from over 35 other nationalities. While the exact number here is unknown, Palestinians are estimated to number 50,000 and 60% of the refugee population is the Sudanese.
The United States Committee for Refugees reports that in Iraq, as of 2000, there were more than 127,700 refugees and about 700,000 internally displaced persons. Many of the refugees in Iraq include roughly 23,900 from Iran and 12,600 from Turkey – in both cases, mostly Kurds. There were also some 90,000 Palestinians and 1,200 refugees of other nationalities.
The Human Rights Watch reports that as of September 2005 there were close to a million Afghans in Afghanistan alone who are displaced. 3.7 million refugees who have fled the conflict in Afghanistan over the past two decades are currently living in neighboring countries – 1.5 million in Iran and more than 2 million in Pakistan.
The U.N. High Commission for Refugees estimates that in Vietnam there is a population of 349,800 refugees.

To read more about World Refugee Day and how you can help click here.


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