Turkey, Iraq refugee problem unresolved despite resettlement

June 19, 2010, Saturday/ 17:05:00
Some 43.3 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide at the end of 2009, the highest number of people uprooted by conflict and persecution since the mid-1990s, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) 2009 annual Global Trends report, released on June 15. In addition, the number of refugees voluntarily returning to their home countries has fallen to its lowest level in 20 years.

The report indicates that more refugees from violence-wracked Iraq are being resettled but that the country’s displacement problem is not going away. The Middle East and North Africa region hosted 19 percent of the world’s refugees, mainly from Iraq.

“Many have been living in limbo for years. This will increasingly be the case if states don’t continue to welcome Iraqi refugees for resettlement,” said Antonio Guterres, who is in Syria to mark World Refugee Day on June 20.

Guterres said around 52,000 Iraqis have been resettled, mostly in the United States, since 2007. The refugee agency has recommended that another 48,000 should be accepted by host countries.

The bulk of refugee applications have come from Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Turkey, where most of the 1.8 million Iraqi refugees abroad live. The UNHCR report shows that only 251,000 refugees went home in 2009, the lowest number since 1990. This compares to a norm over the past decade of around a million people repatriating each year. Turkey saw a decrease in new applications in 2009 as the country only received 7,800 applications, excluding appeal and review claims. In Turkey, there are about 19,408 refugees including 2,739 stateless persons. In contrast, there are 156,012 refugees, including more than 300 stateless persons, whose country of origin is Turkey.

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