Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today marked World Refugee Day by issuing a global reminder to not forget the plight of the nearly 10 million men, women and children who are forced to leave their homes and a call for greater international solidarity to meet their humanitarian needs.
"Let us recall what sets these families, children and elderly apart from others on the move around the globe. The difference is that they cannot go home," Mr. Ban said in his message marking the Day.
While millions of those fleeing their homes depend on the UN for material aid, they also need refuge and legal protection, which begins with an understanding by governments and individuals alike that "refugees are not exiles by choice," he stated.
According to the latest data from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the number of refugees worldwide has risen for the first time in five years, largely due to the violence in Iraq, and the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) has nearly doubled.
"As humankind enjoys unprecedented mobility, with more people than ever before changing countries and even continents in pursuit of better opportunities, let us remember that not everyone who leaves home does so by choice," Mr. Ban stated.
Refugees do not leave their homes and villages willingly, but are forced to do so by conflict or persecution. In many cases, Mr. Ban said, "they are fleeing for their very lives, trying to find safety, protection and a way to meet their most basic needs."
Leaving home, he added, has meant "traumatic experiences of uncertainty, deprivation and intolerance."
Drawing attention to the growing numbers of those seeking refuge within their own countries, "living in refugee-like conditions within their borders," Mr. Ban also emphasized that IDPs have the same need for protection and assistance, education and a safe environment.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, who is marking the Day while on a three-day mission to Africa, stated "Our greatest satisfaction comes from helping a refugee family to go home. Their repatriation is a ray of hope in a strife-torn region."
"Working together with our partners and with the support of our donors we have made a difference. But we need to do more to help refugees once again become active players in society," said Mr. Guterres, who travelled with Sudanese refugees as they returned home from Uganda after years in exile.
This morning, the High Commissioner attended World Refugee Day events in Juba, South Sudan, before visiting UNHCR operations in the area.