Friday, June 18, 2004

GLOBAL REFUGEE NUMBERS

Today is one of my luckiest days because I come across some data which, I think, might be of great interest to the African refugees and their fervent supporters all over Australia.

To begin with, the worldwide number of refugees and other people who have fled their homes (through no fault of their own) fell by 18 per cent to just over 17 million in 2003 - the lowest level in a decade, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). This figure includes the “forgotten” people of Western Sahara who have been living in refugee camps in Algeria and Libya for the past decades.

On the contrary, bugging the trend is the Sudanese refugee population which increased significantly: from 508,200 to 606,000 during 2003 mainly because of the civil war in the South and the new crisis in Darfur, West of the country - a fact that is of major concern to the Sudanese people now living in Australia.

On a slightly more positive note, the international community is stepping up pressure on the Sudanese government to open up the war-torn Western region of Darfur to aid agencies. And European leaders also plan to call on Sudan to hammer out a political accord as soon as possible to resolve the conflict and contain the flow of refugees. Similarly, the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan warns that the humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur requires immediate attention - a warning that should be taken very seriously, in deed.

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