Many developing nations, already faced with the daunting task of fighting widespread poverty, are also burdened with large refugee populations, a United Nations report released on Monday, World Refugee Day, reveals.
About 80 percent of the world’s 15.4 million refugees live in poor countries, with Pakistan (1.9 million), Iran (1.1 million) and Syria (1 million) having the largest populations, the 2010 Global Trends report said. The report doesn’t cover any of this year, so the number of refugees from recent hot spots like Ivory Coast, Syria and Libya were not counted.
When it comes to the economic impact, a couple of African nations are feeling the brunt more than most.
After Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s economy is affected the most by refugees. The central African nation (which, in addition to hosting 180,000 refugees from neighboring nations, also has 2 million internally displaced people mainly due to rebel violence) has 475 refugees for each U.S. dollar of its per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Kenya comes in at No. 3 with 247 refugees per U.S. dollar. In contrast, industrialized Germany, with 594,000 refugees, has 17 refugees per dollar.
In addition, with global conflicts taking longer to be resolved, many people remain refugees for years. In 2010, there were 7.2 million people who had been living as refugees for five years or longer.
"The world is failing these people, leaving them to wait out the instability back home and put their lives on hold indefinitely,” said António Guterres, U.N. high commissioner for refugees. “Developing countries cannot continue to bear this burden alone and the industrialized world must address this imbalance. We need to see increased resettlement quotas. We need accelerated peace initiatives in long-standing conflicts so that refugees can go home."
Guterres also attempted to clear up misconceptions about the refugee populations in more developed nations.
"Fears about supposed floods of refugees in industrialized countries are being vastly overblown or mistakenly conflated with issues of migration,” he said. “Meanwhile, it's poorer countries that are left having to pick up the burden."
In South Africa, the home to one-fifth of the world’s asylum seekers, which has seen surges of anti-foreigner violence in the past, a national human rights group pleaded for tolerance Monday.
"[The South Africa Human Rights Commission] continues to unequivocally call for tolerance, understanding and respect for human rights," the group said in a statement. "The continued threat of violence and displacement that foreign shop owners, for instance, are faced with, perpetuates a state of insecurity and general unrest."
One of the report’s bright spots was the large number of IDPs (internally displaced people) that were able to return home. In 2010, almost three million of them were able to return to their towns and cities. But the number of displaced, 27.5 million, was still the most the world had seen in a decade.