17 June 2004
Secretary-General, in World Refugee Day Message, Notes Key Role of Asylum Countries, Urges Continued Aid for Ressettlement Efforts
NEW YORK, 16 June (UN Headquarters) -- This is the text of the message from Secretary-General Kofi Annan to mark the observance on 20 June of World Refugee Day:
For millions of refugees and displaced people around the world, home is a place they have fled from in fear for their lives, in a desperate attempt to find safety. Home is also a place many despair of ever seeing again, as they struggle to cope with the shattering enormity of losing family, friends, possessions and everything familiar to them. Amid the flight from conflict and persecution, in the tent cities of refugee camps, and during the wait in unbearable uncertainty to see what the future will hold, it is a refugees most cherished dream to return home and live in dignity and security. That is why this years World Refugee Day is dedicated to the theme, A Place to Call Home.
Over the past five decades, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has helped more than 50 million people uprooted by the turmoil of conflict to find a home and start their lives anew. But of the 17 million people under the agencys protection today, the overwhelming majority desperately want to go back to their own homes. Last year alone, an estimated 1.1 million refugees returned home. In an extraordinary expression of the powerful desire to return to even a devastated home, more than three million Afghan refugees and displaced have returned since 2002. Refugees from Angola, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burundi, Côte dIvoire, Iraq, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Somalia are also deciding to return in large numbers. And there are hopeful prospects that a further two million refugees and displaced in Africa will be able to go home.
But there are also refugees who can never return. For them, the solution is either integration in countries of first asylum or, if that is not possible, resettlement in a third country where they can restart their lives. Throughout this process, we should not forget the generosity of asylum countries in providing shelter to refugees in their time of need. It is that spirit of generosity and sustained support that is needed from the international community if we are to succeed in giving the millions of refugees and displaced of this world a place to call home. On this World Refugee Day, let us rededicate ourselves to that mission.
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