04 November 2006

Livin' Like a Refugee

I have no idea what it's like to be a refugee, to live in a "camp" or on the street after having been displaced from your home or nation by war, pestilence, disaster, or malicious neighbors. (I don't think Tom Petty does either.) But a surprising number of my neighbors do have this experience (this area is populated with many folks displaced from SE Asia and Latin America). And many more around the world do as well.

Putting together a radio show on refugees, I dug into the UNHCR statistics and compiled a list of the top 10 nations producing refugees, displaced persons, and the like. The numbers are staggering. And some of the Top 10 are surprising.

You might expect a number of African nations on the list, and there they are making up half of the ten -- Congo, Sudan, Somalia, Liberia, Burundi. But two of the top three are the countries the USA is currently "liberating" from, uh, something. Apparently the residents of Afghanistan and Iraq haven't got the upbeat message that the White House is beaming towards its own citizens.

Then there's Colombia (shouldn't Plan Colombia be helping?), and Azerbaijan (whose president was warmly welcomed at the White House in April), and right in Europe, Serbia & Montenegro. Here's the list.

Country # of persons
Afghanistan 2934076
Colombia 2540074
Iraq 1765011
Sudan 1567214
Somalia 839203
Azerbaijan 816346
Liberia 805968
Serbia & Montenegro 547683
Burundi 526679
DR Congo 525637

Top 10 Origins of refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons, returnees, stateless persons, and others of concern to UNHCR, mid 2005
Some 70,000 refugees will find their way to the USA in 2007, according to the White House. Sounds big-hearted until you consider that US policies around the planet seem to be displacing more people than they re-settle. Heavy sigh.




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