by. Cristina Norland
edited by. Dawn Bush
Yesterday, on June 20th, the world celebrated World Refugee Day. Family was the theme this year and while many gathered with family and friends to commemorate and raise awareness, it is also a somber event as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) recently announced that global forced displacement at the end of 2012 was at an 18 year high. According to UNHCR, “during the year, conflict and persecution forced an average of 23,000 persons per day to leave their homes and seek protection elsewhere, either within the borders of their countries or in other countries.”
War continues to be the main cause of this displacement and 55 percent of the refugees in the report come from just five main countries: Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Syria and Sudan. Afghanistan has remained the top producer of refugees for 32 years (making up one out of four refugees worldwide).
The majority of refugee host nations are in developing countries, often neighbors of the war torn source countries. According to the US Office of Refugee Resettlement in the fiscal year of 2012 the United States hosted just 58,238 refugees from 89 countries; the majority from Bhutan, Burma, Iraq, and Somalia. Of those, Pennsylvania resettled 2,809. 2,166 of those came from Bhutan, 255 from Burma, and 167 from Iraq. While only 4 people were resettled in PA from the Congo in 2012, agencies are expecting the number of Congolese to increase dramatically in 2013.
“These truly are alarming numbers. They reflect individual suffering on a huge scale and they reflect the difficulties of the international community in preventing conflicts and promoting timely solutions for them,” said António Guterres, head of UNHCR.