Yearbook of the United Nations, 2001. Part 3, Economic and social questions. Chapter 12, Refugees and displaced persons
In 2001, the total number of persons of concern to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) throughout the world fell to 19.8 million, from 21.1 million in 2000. Over 12 million (60 per cent) of the total were refugees, 5.3 million were internally displaced persons, 925,677 were asylum-seekers, 703,558 returned to their places of origin and the remaining 1 million included forced migrants and stateless people. Although there were no major refugee emergencies on the scale of those of the 1990s, UNHCR still faced major challenges concerning refugee protection. The military action in Afghanistan following the 11 September terrorist attacks in the United States led to the return of hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees from Iran and Pakistan. However, the impact of those events also fuelled intolerance and distrust of aliens, including refugees and asylum-seekers. In tackling those challenges, UNHCR emphasized the need to secure refugee protection by facilitating durable solutions, such as voluntary repatriation, local integration and resettlement whenever possible. Although Africa's refugee population fell by almost 10 per cent in 2001, the continent's 3.1 million refugees still accounted for approximately 30 per cent of the global refugee population at the end of the year. The main countries of origin of refugees were Angola, Burundi and the Sudan, while the host countries of the largest refugee populations were the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Sudan and the United Republic of Tanzania. The main refugee returns in the region in 2001 were Burundians, Eritreans, Sierra Leoneans and Somalis. The prime focus in Central and South America remained the protracted armed conflict in Colombia, which had uprooted some 700,000 people, most of them forced into the neighbouring countries of Ecuador, Panama and Venezuela. In South Asia, peace initiatives in Sri Lanka raised hopes for durable solutions for the estimated 700,000 internally displaced Sri Lankans and the 64,000 refugees in India. However, there was only minimal progress on the situation of the 110,000 Bhutanese, one of the largest refugee groups in the region, who had been in Nepalese camps for over 10 years. The protection of asylum-seekers was the dominant issue in East Asia and the Pacific, where there was a general narrowing of access to asylum. As East Timor moved closer to independence, UNHCR initiated negotiations with the Indonesian Government for the local settlement of some 50,000 East Timorese remaining there. In Central and South-West Asia, UNHCR's main focus was on Afghanistan and surrounding countries following the military intervention. UNHCR-provided relief for the estimated 200,000 Afghans who fled to Pakistan in 2001, in addition to the over 2 million who were already in camps in Iran and Pakistan. The main challenge in Western Europe continued to be the maintenance of access for asylum seekers. Close to 420,000 applications for asylum were made in a context of reinforced legislation against irregular migration, people smuggling and trafficking, and of security concerns. In Eastern Europe, UNHCR focused on finding durable solutions for those displaced by protracted conflicts in the Caucasus. To mark the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, UNHCR convened, in December, the first meeting of States parties to the Convention and its 1967 Protocol, which adopted a landmark declaration reinforcing commitment to those two instruments. During the course of the year, UNHCR continued to hold meetings within the framework of the Global Consultations on International Protection, launched in 2000. It also took steps to sharpen its focus and strengthen its capacity to meet future challenges. A review of priorities and fund-raising efforts resulted in the reduction of UNHCR's 2001 budget by some 10 per cent and the number of staff posts by 16 per cent.
Yearbook of the United Nations, 2001. v. 55; Vol. 55
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