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The BBC's Greg Barrow
"Film Aid... bring the magic of the silver screen to some of the most miserable places in the world"
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High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers
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Danielle Joly, ethnic minority rights researcher
"A shrinking of the solidarity to the outsider"
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Wednesday, 20 June, 2001, 04:13 GMT 05:13 UK
UN chief pays tribute to refugees
Afghan refugee family
12 million have fled across international borders
By Stephen Cviic

Wednesday has been designated World Refugee Day by the United Nations.

It is almost exactly 50 years since the UN Convention on Refugees was signed, and the organisation says it is time to remember the millions of people around the world who have crossed international borders to escape persecution, war or disasters.

The term refugee is sometimes also used to describe people who are displaced within their own country.

Afghan refugees at Jalozai
The UN wants refugees to be treated with more understanding and respect
The UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, describes refugees as the great survivors of our time - people who have persevered despite losing everything but hope.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 12 million people have fled across international borders.

If internally displaced people are included, the figure rises to more than 20 million.

The UNHCR recognises that the best way to deal with refugees is to tackle the conflicts that caused many of them to flee.

But it argues that setting aside one day a year to focus on their plight will help them to be treated with more understanding and respect.

In recent years, the UNHCR's aid budget has fallen, partly because of donor fatigue.

The organisation wants governments to renew their commitment to the principle of asylum and give more money.

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See also:

14 Jun 01 | Middle East
Eyewitness: Refugees' plight
08 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Timor refugees 'choose to stay on'
28 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Australia refugees on hunger strike
18 May 01 | South Asia
UN says heat killing Afghan refugees
18 May 01 | Europe
Refugees flee as ceasefire holds
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