At the end of 2008, more than 42 million people around the world had been forced to flee their homes, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on 20 June to mark World Refugee Day.

Those that were uprooted to other areas within their own countries are known as internally displaced people (IDPs). They are classified as refugees only once they cross an international border.

According to UNHCR’s annual Global Trends report, released on 16 June, there were around 16 million refugees and 26 million IDPs in the world at the end of 2008.

UNHCR says that the number of IDPs is growing faster than the number of refugees because of the changing nature of conflict; the majority of conflicts today are within individual countries and less between nations.

While the UN agency’s mandate is to “lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide”, in recent years it has been increasingly tasked under the UN’s humanitarian reform process with assisting IDPs. Since 2005, the number of IDPs UNHCR provides services for has doubled.

“Being forced from your home by conflict or persecution is a tragedy whether you’ve crossed an international border or not,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said. “Today, we are seeing a relentless series of internal conflicts that are generating millions of uprooted people.”

Guterres said this year’s crises in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Somalia are pushing the number of people forced to flee their homes towards the 45 million mark – the highest number in at least a decade.

Countries with more than 1 million IDPs

  1. Colombia: 3 million
  2. Iraq: 2.6 million
  3. Pakistan: 2.5 million
  4. Sudan: 2 million
  5. DRC: 1.5 million
  6. Congo: 1.3 million
  7. Uganda: 1.2 million

Major refugee-hosting countries in 2008

  1. Pakistan: 1.8 million
  2. Syria: 1.1 million
  3. Iran: 980,000
  4. Germany: 582,700
  5. Jordan: 500,400
  6. Chad: 330,500
  7. Tanzania: 321,900
  8. Kenya: 320,600


DUBAI, 21 June 2009 (IRIN)