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World Refugee Day
by The Ovi Team
2009-06-20 11:22:30
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refugee01For years, many countries and regions have been holding their own Refugee Days and even Weeks. One of the most widespread is Africa Refugee Day, which is celebrated on 20 June in several countries. As an expression of solidarity with Africa, which hosts the most refugees, and which traditionally has shown them great generosity, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 55/76 on 4 December 2000. In this resolution, the General Assembly noted that 2001 marked the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, and that the Organization of African Unity (OAU) had agreed to have International Refugee Day coincide with Africa Refugee Day on 20 June.

The Assembly therefore decided that, from 2001, 20 June would be celebrated as World Refugee Day and according the UN High Commissioner for Refugees for this year there was a 14% increase in the global refugee population and the increase is mainly due to the number of people fleeing from Iraq and Afghanistan where conflict despite reinsurances continues. According to UNHCR there are 9.9 million refugees worldwide.

The top refugee countries of origin are:

Afghanistan, 2.1 million
Iraq, 2.2 million
Sudan, 686,000
Somalia, 460,000
DR Congo, 400,000
Burundi, 400,000

The same time there are 24, 5 million Internally Displaced People like in the case of the Darfur camps in Sudan with main countries:

Colombia, 3 million
Iraq, 2 million
Uganda, 1.6 million
Sudan, 5 million
DR Congo, 1.1 million

Even if the wars finish we must remember that reintegrating those people into society is a slow and difficult process since many of them grew up in camps or in war and have no sense of how the society really works.

Significant to add here is the message from Nelson Mandela on Africa Refugee Day at June 20 1997

It is a great honour to add the voice of South Africa to the call for solidarity in addressing one of Africa's most urgent problems. When African Heads of States and Governments decided, in 1969, to address Africa's unique refugee problems in accordance with the Charter of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), they laid the foundation for the 1974 Convention that has become a landmark in the protection of refugees in Africa.

Tribute must also be paid to international bodies, NGOs and individuals whose tireless efforts to solve the refugee problem have made an indelible mark on our continent's history.
Yet, our continent today has the largest refugee problem, in the world. Sadly, armed conflict and violation of human rights continue to be the fundamental causes. In turn large-scale population displacements pose a threat to regional and continental peace and security. Unresolved refugee problems become a source of instability, violence and further population displacements.

Dealing with these problems is inextricably linked to achieving peace, upholding the rule of law and entrenching a human rights culture and democracy. Solutions to the refugee problem therefore require us to realise the principles of the African Charter emphasizing political and civil rights and improved socio-economic conditions.

The theme of Africa Refugee Day this year, "Together in Search for Solutions: is a call to all of us on the African continent to unite in the face of this pressing global problem. Africa's need for integrated approach is shared worldwide. No country can single- handily accomplish these goals.

The ending of apartheid and destabilisation, and the entrenchment of democracy have helped to reduce the number of Southern Africa refugees. The memorandum of Understanding between the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and SADC goes a long way to addressing the consequences of apartheid's destabilisation policies.

As long as armed conflict persists, Africa will need to formulate progressive and humanitarian refugee policies to deal with the crisis. To this end South Africa is committed to regional as well as inter-regional cooperation within the framework of the Organisation of African Unity.

Nelson Mandela President
Republic of South Africa
20 June 1997

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