GENEVA – ONLY 251,000 of the world’s 15 million refugees returned to their home countries last year, the lowest rate in two decades, the United Nations said on Tuesday.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo forced many refugees from those countries to stay put last year.
Other crises that had appeared to be abating, such as in Iraq and southern Sudan, also proved stubbornly stagnant in 2009, discouraging uprooted people from returning home, Guterres said in a statement accompanying a UNHCR report.
‘Already a majority of the world’s refugees have been living as refugees for five years or more,’ the former Portuguese prime minister said. ‘Inevitably, that proportion will grow if fewer refugees are able to go home.’ About 1 million refugees normally voluntarily repatriate every year, according to the UNHCR.
The world’s overall number of refugees – defined as those who flee conflict or persecution across international borders – was stable last year at 15.2 million.
Over the last decade, at least 1.3 million refugees have been naturalised in another country, more than half of them in the United States. — REUTERS