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UN: Iraq conflict exacerbates unprecedented refugee flows

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimates 67 million displaced people worldwide in 2007, a result of war, poverty, and climate change.

By Liam Stack / June 18, 2008

The number of refugees and internally displaced people swelled to 67 million in 2007, according to a report released Tuesday by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Long-running conflicts, including the war in Iraq, have figured in the unprecedented number of refugees.

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Of those 67 million, UNHCR provides relief and services to 11.4 million refugees and 26 million internally displaced persons (IDPs). The remainder are Palestinian refugees cared for by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and other displaced persons not covered by the UNHCR.

The UN said extended conflicts, climate change, and poverty exacerbated by the global economic slowdown are responsible for the increase, which follows five years of steady decline in the number of refugees and IDPs. The report also said millions found solutions under voluntary repatriations in their home country, resettlement in another country, or integration into the country of asylum.

At a mock Darfurian refugee camp set up Tuesday in London's Trafalgar Square to mark World Refugee Day, which is June 20, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, introduced the report and said that he expects the numbers to steadily rise in the future, according to the Associated Press.

"Now, unfortunately, with the multiplication of conflicts and the intensification of conflicts, the number is on the rise again," said Guterres, standing amid white U.N. tents erected in the square as part of the "Experience Darfur" exhibition.
"People being forced to move, unfortunately, will be one of the characteristics of the 21st century," he said.

Afghanistan and Iraq were identified as the two leading countries of origin for cross-border refugees. Afghans made up 27 percent of the total refugee population, with almost 3.1 million living in Iran and Pakistan. Iraqis were the second largest group, with 2.3 million living outside the country. Of those, 2 million live in Jordan and Syria.


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