Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Happy World Refugee Day 

It was the World Refugee Day and the top UN refugees honcho had this message to the world:
Nations such as Uganda that host hundreds of thousands of refugees are a lesson to the West, where asylum policies are increasingly restrictive, the head of the U.N. refugee agency said on Monday.

Marking World Refugee Day with a first overseas trip in the role, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres was visiting camps in one of the world's remotest corners: northwest Uganda near borders with Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo.

"Uganda is not rich and Uganda has plenty of its own problems," Guterres told hundreds of Sudanese refugees from neighbouring African conflicts at Ikafe camp, after children performed traditional dances in his honour.

"But they didn't say enough is enough -- that is especially remarkable in today's world. In my part of the world we are seeing policies that are more and more restrictive when it comes to refugees," the former Portuguese prime minister said.
Kudos to Uganda - but - there is another "lesson to the West" in all this; one that sadly I wouldn't expect an U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and/or former Socialist politician to voice:

The number of refugees around the world fell in 2004 - fourth year in a row in - by 4 per cent, to a lowest figure since 1980. Since 2000, five million refugees have returned home -– including 3.5 million Afghans and another several hundred thousand Iraqis.

The lesson? Want to make inroads into reducing refugee numbers - overthrow tyrants and restore peace. So this World Refugee Day, congratulations Uganda, but also congratulations America and the Willing.

The UN writes that "The decline in the global refugee number for a fourth year in succession can largely be attributed to an almost unprecedented level of voluntary repatriation."

I prefer an almost unprecedented level of liberation and democratization.


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