WORLD> Global General
World marks refugee day as 37m refugees in spotlight
Updated: 2008-06-20 16:53

When it began work in 1951, the UNHCR's mandate was limited to finding solutions for the world's refugees. In recent decades, however, it has also been tasked to work with other UN agencies to help IDPs and other groups "of concern," including people with no defined nationality -- known as stateless people -- as well as asylum seekers, returned refugees and IDPs who have returned home.

Despite the increases, not all of the report's findings were negative. Some 731,000 refugees and over two million IDPs were able to return home last year.

Guterres said that providing protection for refugees today is vastly more challenging than when his office began work in 1951 trying to find solutions for Europeans uprooted in the aftermath of World War II.

"Old barriers to human mobility have fallen and new patterns of movement have emerged, including forms of forced displacement that were not envisaged by the 1951 UN Refugee Convention," Guterres said from Kenya, where he saw first-hand thousands of Somali refugees uprooted from their conflict-torn country, and Kenyans in the Rift Valley who were displaced in recent post-election violence.

Global refugee and forced displacement statistics for 2007, released by the UN refugee agency on Tuesday, showed Somalis were the fifth largest group of refugees and sixth largest group of internally displaced people under UNHCR's care worldwide, and the second largest group claiming asylum after Iraqis.

The new statistics showed globally there were 11.4 million refugees outside their countries and 26 million others displaced internally by conflict or persecution at the end of 2007, contributing to an unprecedented number of people uprooted under the care of the UN refugee agency.

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