Peacekeeping: Refugees Rising

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May 8, 2009: Since the end of the Cold War, there have been fewer wars, but more victims. The greater number of victims come in the form of refugees (who flee to another country) and IDPs (Internally Displaced People, who flee to another part stay of their own country). The biggest growth has been with IDPs. There are some 26 million IDPs now. The largest new source last year was the Philippines, where Moslem rebels chased 600,000 Christians from their homes. Moslem violence in other areas (Sudan, Iraq, Pakistan and Somalia) led to at least 200,000 more IDPs in each country. There were similar scale displacements in Kenya, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Sri Lanka and India. Africa is still the source of most IDPs (11.6 percent), but that total fell nine percent last year. The country with the largest number of IDPs (Sudan, with 4.9 million) is in Africa. IDP totals grew everywhere else. In the Americas it was up seven percent. In the Middle East it was up 11 percent. In south and southeast Asia it was up 13 percent. Europe and Central Asia, with 2.5 million IDPs, remained the same.

A new, and growing problem is the permanent displacement of refugees and IDPs. In places like the Congo, refugees return home and have to flee again. Some Darfur refugees have been in Chad for over two years. Some Burundians who fled to Tanzania in the early 1970s have still not returned "home." There are also the Palestinians who fled Israel in the late 1940s, and Afghans who fled home in the 1980s. There are many costs for "permanent displacement". Being in long term exile is hard on the individuals, and the areas that host them. Sub-Saharan African nations lack the resources to care for the IDPs, who then become dependent on international aid agencies. The longer IDPs are away, the more likely that, when they do return, there's a greater chance of renewed fighting as families and tribes seek to recover their property. That just risks getting another war started. Happens all the time.

 


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