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Refugee populations drops in 2003 as over 3 million return to homelands.

GENEVA -- The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees annual report, 2003 Global Refugee Trends: Overview of refugee populations, states that the global number of refugees and persons of concern to the agency dropped dramatically to 17.1 million in 2003--the lowest in at least a decade--because of concerted efforts to end protracted refugee situations and find durable solutions.

This figure includes

* 9.7 million refugees (down by 10 percent);

* 1.1 million returned refugees;

* 4.2 million internally displaced persons;

* 233,000 returned IDPS; 995,000 asylum seekers; and

* 912,000 others, including stateless people.

High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers attributed the sharp decline to several factors, including increased international efforts to find solutions for millions of uprooted people and ongoing work by UNHCR and its partners to resolve "protracted" refugee situations that have gone on for years or even decades.

In particular, noted Lubbers, there has been an unprecedented level of voluntary repatriation over the past two years, with some 3.5 million refugees going home, mostly Afghans from Pakistan and Iran.

Besides voluntary repatriation, two other durable solutions preferred by UNHCR are local integration in the country of asylum and resettlement to a third country.
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Title Annotation:General
Publication:Community Action
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:4EXSI
Date:Jul 12, 2004
Words:196
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