Vatican Notes Agency´s Work With Refugees

Participates in Celebration of UNHCR´s 50th Anniversary

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

ROME, DEC. 14, 2000 (
Europe´s refugee population has grown by 1 million since 1999. That could be an indication of the ongoing need for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), whose 50th anniversary was celebrated this morning in Rome at the Rospigliosi Palace.

Bishop Michael Louis Fitzgerald, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, addressed the meeting on behalf of the Holy See, referring to the Holy Father´s appeal last Sunday for assistance to refugees. «This anniversary marks 50 years of experiences and sufferings for millions of men, but also of generosity, acceptance and birth of new hopes,» the Bishop Fitzgerald said.

Before praying the Angelus last Sunday, John Paul II recalled this anniversary, emphasizing that it is «a very important date for many who, being obliged to flee from their own countries because of war or persecution, have found protection and assistance in this program.»

The Pope also thanked «all those men and women who have generously offered time, intelligence and generous willingness, even beyond their duties of work, to give help to these refugees.» There are 22 million people who are refugees or under the competence of UNHCR, twice the number of a decade ago.

Over the past half-century, UNHCR has helped 50 million refugees, the majority outside their national boundaries. Established by the U.N. General Assembly in 1950, it now has an annual budget of $900 million, which its directors consider inadequate. Its 5,000 employees in 120 countries at times face risky situations.

The largest number of refugees is in Asia: 7.3 million civilian refugees fleeing from armed conflicts. More than 2.5 million Afghans are still in Iran, Pakistan and India. Africa has 6.2 million refugees, primarily from Burundi, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan and Angola.

There are more than 1 million refugees in North America, and 90,000 in Latin America and the Caribbean. In Oceania they number 80,000. Europe is in second place as a land of exile, with 7.2 million refugees; it follows Asia and surpasses Africa in this respect.

From 1999 to the present, those without a homeland in Europe have increased by 1 million. However, the distribution is not homogeneous within the European Union. Sweden has 20 refugees for every 1,000 inhabitants, while in countries of southern Europe have fewer than five refugees for every 1,000 residents.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation