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On World Refugee Day, the plight of internally displaced people must not be overlooked

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GENEVA, 19 June 2007 - In advance of World Refugee Day on 20 June, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) called for greater attention to all groups of people forcibly uprooted from their homes, including those displaced within their own countries. Although internally displaced people are more numerous than refugees who have managed to cross an international border, they generally get less assistance.

24.5 million people are currently estimated to be internally displaced as a result of conflict while some 14 million are seeking refuge in another state. At least 1.5 million people have been displaced within their own countries since the beginning of the year alone, according to estimates by the NRC's Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre.

"There still is little public awareness of the very specific risks internally displaced people are facing," said NRC Secretary General Tomas C. Archer. "Internally displaced people cannot count on a well-established system of international protection. They are among the most vulnerable people in the world. They are frequently denied their basic rights, often live under the brutal threat of murder, rape, torture and enforced slavery, and are routinely denied access to education and a livelihood."

Attempts by the international community to help internally displaced people remain inconsistent and depend on the willingness of their governments to accept assistance, and these very governments often choose to ignore the problem, or, worse, may be directly or indirectly responsible for driving families and individuals from their homes.

In Iraq, where one family in six has been forced to flee, the generosity of neighbouring states in accepting refugees is reaching its limit, and the estimated 300,000 people displaced within the country in 2007 alone are finding internal borders closing and access to food, water, shelter and security ever more precarious.

Somalia also saw a huge increase in the number of internally displaced people as a result of fighting in the capital, Mogadishu. Ongoing conflicts caused the new displacement of tens of thousands of people in Sudan (Darfur), Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, the Philippines, Colombia, Kenya, Yemen and Lebanon during the first half of 2007. However, there is some room for optimism, as fragile peace processes are holding up in South Sudan and in Côte d'Ivoire, and in countries including Nepal and Peru tentative programmes to compensate IDPs or enable them to return are beginning to show results.

Regularly updated information on all situations of conflict-induced displacement is available from the IDMC's website at www.internal-displacement.org .

The Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, established by the Norwegian Refugee Council, is the leading international body monitoring internal displacement worldwide.

For more information, please contact Jens-Hagen Eschenbächer, NRC Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, Geneva +41-22-799 07 03, or +41-79 79 79 439.