World faces era of `near permanent` global refugees: UNHCR

UN refugee chief blames unrelenting conflicts in Afghanistan and Africa.

Geneva: UN refugee chief Antonio Guterres on Monday warned governments that unrelenting conflicts in Afghanistan and Africa were creating a near permanent "global" refugee burden.

Highlighting decades of displacement for millions of Afghans and Somalis, Guterres told the UNHCR`s annual governing Executive Committee that last year was the worst in two decades for returns.

About 250,000 refugees went back home in 2009, about one quarter of the annual average over the past 10 years, according to the agency.

They included just 61 Somalis.

"The changing nature and the growing intractability of conflict make achieving and sustaining peace more difficult in today`s world," Guterres said.

"As a result of never-ending conflicts, we are witnessing the creation of a number of quasi-permanent, global refugee populations, of which Afghans and Somalis are the most obvious," he added.

The number of Somali refugees abroad rose from 440,000 to 678,000 by the end of 2009, despite a dip in the middle of the decade. Another 1.5 million Somalis were displaced inside the country.

Sixty-one Somali refugees returned home last year compared to 51,000 in 2001, according to UNHCR data, even though they face significant hardship abroad.

"I do not believe there is any group of refugees as systematically undesired, stigmatised and discriminated against," said Guterres.


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