UNHCR staff exposed to danger
After 55 years of existence, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has expanded its role by addressing the urgent needs of those internally displaced by civil wars.
In its new book entitled "The State of the World's Refugees: Human Displacement in the New Millennium", it examines the changing dynamics of displacement over the past half decade. The book was launched recently in London by the head of the UNHCR Antonio Guterrez and U.K. Secretary of State for International Development Hilary Benn.
"For the first time, since the end of World War II, a comprehensive regime is being designed to address the needs of the forcibly displaced on both sides of the border," the book noted.
Although, Benn said that this new role has placed the UNHCR staff at the forefront of danger even while they are only working out to protect the interests of the displaced refugees. However, he praised the late Nabil Bahjat Abdulla who was killed in south Sudan last month, and so with the other 21 UNHCR staff who were killed in line of duty since 1990.
Guterrez said that being in the UN was something of a shielf some years ago, but now we are a target, adding the security of the UNHCR staff and that of the refugees is one of the main challenges the UNHCR faces today.
However, these threats have not slackened the role of the UNHCR over the years. In fact, "millions of refugees and asylum seekers have over the past five years benefited from international protection and repatriation, integration in first-asylum states, or resettlement to third countries."
"More than four million have gone home to Afghanistan and hundreds of thousands more to Angola, Sierra Leone, Burindi and Liberia. South Sudan, struggling to emerge from two decades of civil war, could see more than four million internally displaced and refugees return in the next few years," the UNHCR reported.
The UNHCR, however, said that it sees to it that those uprooted can go home and staying home requires sustained international attention, from the return phase to reconstruction and long-term development. "Bridging gap is crucial in preventing states from sliding back into another cycle of violence and displacement. Development plays a key role in ensuring that peace and economic recovery can take root."
At present, the UNHCR has revealed that there are 33 protracted refugee situations involving groups of at least 25,000 people who have been in exile for five years or more. These refugees accounted for 5.7 million of the world's 9.2 million displaced people.
In the process of protecting and repatriating of the displaced, the UNHCR has also ventured into another humanitarian concern: migration. Guterrez said that the UNHCR does not want to involve itself in the problem of migration. "But migration requires our attention--to be vigilant of its effects on the right to asylum. While UNHCR recognizes it is the prerogative of states to control their borders and manage migration, such measures should not preclude the right of those in real need to adequate procedures in accordance with international law."
Today, the UNHCR estimated that international migrants reached 175 million, with asylum seekers and refugees comprising only a very small proportion. "But the distinction between refugees, asylum seekers and migrants has been blurred and are all now seen in a negative light by some media and politicians," he said.
Winning twice the Nobel Peace Prize, the UNHCR cares for some 19 million refugees, including more than 5.5 million internally displaced, in over 116 countries.
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