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11/19/02 - HELPING REFUGEES - 2002-11-20


The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees provides assistance to nearly twenty-million refugees and other people around the world. The United States is a strong supporter of the U-N agency and is its largest donor. This year, the U.S. has contributed more than two-hundred-fifty million dollars to the U-N for refugee relief. Over five-million dollars has been provided in support of U-N activities in behalf of refugee children and women.

One of the major success stories is Afghanistan, where more than two-million refugees have returned to their homes. Arthur Dewey, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration, said, “This marks the largest refugee return in the last thirty years.” But, said Mr. Dewey, “we are constantly reminded of the fragility of this progress, and the international community must assure that its partnership with Afghanistan holds firm over what will be a long, and sometimes difficult, road ahead.”

Elsewhere, especially in Africa, there are millions of refugees with little hope of returning home any time soon. Internal strife in Angola has left millions of Angolans homeless. War between Eritrea and Ethiopia resulted in about one million displaced Eritreans. At its peak in the 1990s, civil strife in Somalia caused over one million Somalis to seek refugee in neighboring countries. Many of them have returned home now. At least another four-hundred thousand remain internally displaced. And in Sierra Leone, civil war caused the displacement of more than two-million people, well over one-third of the population. Most have now returned.

Rudd Lubbers, the U-N High Commissioner for Refugees, said that unless these situations are resolved, there is little chance for peace and development in Africa. As Assistant Secretary of State Dewey said, “the climate for refugee solutions -- especially through good leadership and good governance -- is all too rare.”

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