The African refugee crisis
To give a sense of the scale of the refugee crisis, let's simply consider the current situation in Africa:
At the beginning of 2009, there were more than 10 million people of concern to the UNHCR in sub-Saharan Africa, including some 2.1 million refugees, 305,000 asylum-seekers, more than 6.3 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and an estimated 100,000 stateless people. In contrast with global trends, the number of refugees in the region is on the decline. However, nearly 98 per cent of the refugees who remain have been trapped in exile for protracted periods.
Comprehensive strategies, including voluntary repatriation, local integration and resettlement, have helped many refugees in the region find a durable solution. While repatriation has remained the main solution, it is encouraging that local integration is also becoming a more realistic option. This is particularly the case in asylum countries in West Africa, but also elsewhere, most notably the United Republic of Tanzania, which is reviewing the applications for citizenship of some 165,000 Burundian refugees.
UNHCR will work with governments and other partners to make these solutions sustainable.Many IDPs, too, are returning to their places of origin and the Office has assisted some one million IDPs with their return in 2009. Nonetheless, UNHCR and its partners in the region are still protecting and assisting some 6.3 million IDPs for whom no solutions had been found. Moreover, many more people have been displaced both internally and externally by conflict and natural disasters.
Somalia faces one of the most severe forced displacements in the region, with more than 1.5 million of its citizens uprooted, many several times over. Thousands have entered Ethiopia and Kenya as refugees. In the Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya, overcrowding is putting a severe strain on infrastructure and services and leading to reductions in the standard of assistance.
Mixed-migration movements in the region involve not only flows out of Africa, such as the dangerous journeys across the Gulf of Aden or the Mediterranean. They also include people moving from Central and West Africa to North Africa, and from the Horn of Africa, the Great Lakes region and Zimbabwe to South Africa. Indeed, in 2008, South Africa was by far the leading recipient of new asylum claims in the world, totalling some 207,000. UNHCR will continue to work with governments, in particular those of countries on the migration routes, to strengthen national asylum systems and protection capacities.
This information was provided by UNHCR.