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Refugees Intro
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MAIN AGENCIES:
UNHCR, UNRWA
COST:
$1.2bn (UNHCR budget for 1999)
$322m (UNRWA budget for 1999)
REFUGEES
Overview Mechanisms The record
 
The UN High Commission for Refugees, UNHCR, was set up after the Second World War to help more than a million people who had fled their countries. Since then, columns of refugees fleeing conflict have become a hauntingly familiar sight. The UN is currently helping more than 19 million refugees, mostly women and children.

REFUGEES
OverviewMechanismsThe record
 
The 1951 UN convention on refugees obliged countries to accept refugees seeking asylum. A refugee was defined as anyone fleeing persecution for "reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion". Deciding what to do with these huge influxes of people fleeing war has presented refugee organisations with awkward dilemmas.
REFUGEES
OverviewMechanismsThe record
 
More than 30 million refugees fleeing war, famine or persecution have received aid from the UNHCR since 1951. Refugee organisations have two basic choices when faced with huge numbers of displaced people: either to find them safe accommodation in their own country, or to resettle them in another country. The problem with the first option is that they can often not guarantee safety - as the Kurds in northern Iraq and the Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica discovered.
Although camps in neighbouring countries can work well in the short-term, they can quickly become sources of instability. This was the case in eastern Congo, when camps for Hutus expelled from Rwanda became weapons bases for Hutu extremists. Conditions in refugee camps are also often very poor, and makeshift camps are in danger of becoming permanent. More than 3 million Palestinians from the 1948 Arab-Israeli war are still living in camps in Lebanon, with no hope of returning to their former homes. Although they are receiving education, healthcare and other assistance from UNWRA, they have now endured more than 50 years without citizenship of any state.