The UN refugee agency warned in a report released on Friday that 2013 was on track for some of the highest levels of forced displacement ever seen by the agency, due to unusually large numbers of new refugees and internally displaced people.
The report said 5.9 million people were forced to flee their homes in the first six months of the year, compared with 7.6 million for all of 2012. The biggest producer of new displacement was Syria.
UNHCR's "Mid-Year Trends 2013" report is mainly based on data provided by the organization's more than 120 country offices, and shows sharp rises in several important indicators. Among these is the number of new refugees: 1.5 million during the first six months of 2013 compared to 1.1 million for all of 2012. Another is people newly displaced within their own countries – 4 million people compared with 6.5 million for all of 2012. […]
UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres today opened an annual discussion on protection challenges with an appeal for strengthened international focus on the almost 30 million people around the world who are forcibly displaced in their own countries – often referred to as Internally Displaced People or IDPs.
In a speech to the opening of the 2013 High Commissioner's Dialogue, Guterres warned that internal displacement was on the rise, with a 50 per cent increase in numbers over the past 15 years and amid indications that 2013 could break new records with millions more people having becoming internally displaced in Syria and elsewhere.
"I am concerned that the magnitude and the complexity of internal displacement have not galvanized the international attention the issue deserves", he said. "Like refugees, internally displaced persons often find refuge in the poorest and most marginalized regions of the country, which frequently lack proper infrastructure to deal with the population influx. But they are often even harder to reach, as many remain in conflict areas". […]
Not far from the picturesque Plitvice Lakes National Park in the mountainous karst area of central Croatia lies the nondescript hamlet of Poljice. Millions of tourists visit the lakes, but hardly anyone calls in on Poljice and its two inhabitants, 69-year-old Milan Sunajko and his wife Nedjeljka, aged 59.
Their stone-and-brick house is in a dreadful state, without proper plumbing and insulation, and they live in extreme poverty. But the pair are just thankful to be in their home region after a six-year absence that was enforced on them in 1995 at the tail end of the war in Croatia.
And they have been put on a priority list to move into a planned modern 29-apartment building in the town of Korenica under a special housing programme. This is aimed at ending a lingering displacement problem in the region by providing homes for some 74,000 vulnerable people – refugees, refugee returnees and internally displaced people – in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia. […]
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs), Chaloka Beyani, urged the Government of Serbia and the authorities in Kosovo to cooperate and discharge their primary responsibility for implementing long-lasting solutions for IDPs in Serbia and Kosovo.
"The time is now conducive to implement durable solutions, after 15 years of protracted displacement", Mr. Beyani said at the end of an official visit to the country. "Both the Government of Serbia and the authorities in Kosovo should show political leadership to work towards the implementation of durable solutions for internally displaced persons".
The international human rights expert stressed that both the Government of Serbia and the authorities in Kosovo, together with the international community, should redouble their efforts to solve the problems of IDPs in the context of the European Union accession framework, which lays out the plans for negotiations for EU membership. […]