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June 18th, 2009
03:54 PM ET

42 million people uprooted worldwide

Program Note: The U.N.H.C.R. released their annual report on the refugee crisis Tuesday. Tune in tonight for special coverage of World Refugee Day tonight at 10 p.m. ET. And learn more about how you can help by visiting Impact Your World.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

The number of people forcibly uprooted by conflict and persecution worldwide stood at 42 million at the end of last year amid a sharp slowdown in repatriation and more prolonged conflicts resulting in protracted displacement. The total includes 16 million refugees and asylum seekers and 26 million internally displaced people uprooted within their own countries, according to UNHCR's annual "Global Trends" report released today.

The new report says 80 percent of the world's refugees are in developing nations, as are the vast majority of internally displaced people – a population with whom the UN refugee agency is increasingly involved. Many have been uprooted for years with no end in sight.

Although the overall total of 42 million uprooted people at year's end represents a drop of about 700,000 over the previous year, new displacement in 2009 – not reflected in the annual report – has already more than offset the decline.

"In 2009, we have already seen substantial new displacements, namely in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Somalia," UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said. "While some displacements may be short-lived, others can take years and even decades to resolve. We continue to face several longer-term internal displacement situations in places like Colombia, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia. Each of these conflicts has also generated refugees who flee beyond their own borders."

The report counts 29 different groups of 25,000 or more refugees in 22 nations who have been in exile for five years or longer and for whom there are no immediate solutions in sight. This means at least 5.7 million refugees are living in limbo.

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